A levy for the levee?

City Council wants ‘compromise’ over waterfront park vote

The Hood River City Council has stopped work on an ordinance for mixed-use zoning of the waterfront until some key questions can be answered.

The elected body is hoping to find a “compromise” that will grant voter demand for a large park without bringing legal liability for the downzoning of property. Officials are also pondering whether to propose a bond levy that will ask city taxpayers to pay for development of green space and public facilities.

“I don’t think the citizens intended to pass a policy that would result in the city being liable for takings,” said Councilor Charles Haynie. “Somebody’s got to put up a bond issue and then the rubber will meet the road.”

On Monday, council members said they had clearly heard the strong message delivered by voters in last week’s passage of Measure 14-16. The ballot initiative brought out 54 percent of the 2,970 registered voters living within the city limits. The park proposal sponsored by the Citizens for Responsible Waterfront Development was favored by a 67 percent margin, with 1,081 voters in support and 522 opposed. The new policy requires the city to establish a public park on land owned by the Port of Hood River from the riverside jetty known as the Hook to the site referred to as the Boat Basin and from the water’s edge to the centerline of Portway Avenue. The first hearing on the Columbia River Mixed-Use Ordinance was slated to take place at the Nov. 10 meeting but was stopped by the council’s action. The City Planning Commission had recommended at least a six-acre park and the council felt that proposal came close to meeting the citizens’ request.

“Maybe we can ‘tweak’ it (ordinance) enough to somehow comply with the intent of the referendum. I don’t know if that’s possible but I think there’s been a lot of work done by a lot of people on this ordinance and it just seems to be a shame to throw it all away,” said Lynn Guenther, city manager.

For the past three years, Mayor Paul Cummings and Councilors Linda Rouches and Haynie have worked with port officials on a joint waterfront task force. Their goal was to facilitate a working relationship between the two agencies that would prevent a reoccurrence of conflicts over zoning that surfaced during a previous planning effort that began in 1994 and was tabled in 1999.

“Now, instead of having some development down there in two to three years it could be a decade before we get anything going again,” said Cummings.

He said the city was respectful of the voter’s choice but had been put into a “Catch-22” situation. Cummings said the city was faced with a potential challenge if it did not implement an unfunded park policy — but could be sued if it did. The officials were also concerned about language in the ballot summary that allowed buildings such as Luhr Jensen and Sons to remain standing on land leased from the port only as long as their existing operations were in place.

Alexandra Sosnkowski, city attorney, told the council that the clock was ticking on the decision to either implement, ignore or reject the new policy altogether on the grounds that land-use issues cannot be decided by the initiative process. The measure is expected to go into effect about Dec. 24 and Sosnkowski urged the officials to make a choice by that date. She said the city did not face potential liability from adopting the policy — only when it tried to enforce it. Sosnkowski said there had been court rulings on both sides of the issue and she felt the definitive answer on the reach of citizen initiatives would have to come from the state Supreme Court.

“The bottom line is that you need to make the decision from a political standpoint and I will be able to support whatever you decide,” Sosnkowski said.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners