City Council told to stand back

The Hood River City Council was advised on Monday not to take an official stand on three controversial land-use issues.

“Don’t do a pre-emptive strike on something that hasn’t happened yet,” said City Manager Lynn Guenther.

“I believe it would be best for the City of Hood River to let the processes work and then we will be able to proactively commit to a position.”

His words of caution centered on the following three concerns:

The pending vote for Measure 14-16, which seeks to preserve a large section of the waterfront as a public park.

An application for a Wal-Mart super center that is currently being reviewed by the County Planning Commission.

Deliberations underway by the City Planning Commission over the Columbia River Waterfront Mixed-Use Zone.

Although Guenther said the elected body should refrain from taking a collective view on the issues, he attempted to place no holds on the opinions of individual members.

And members of City Council didn’t hesitate to share their worries about the potential legal challenges that could occur with passage of the measure sponsored by the Citizens for Responsible Waterfront Development.

“When I talk to people they have no idea of the nuances of that initiative, I think it’s really destructive to the order of decision,” said Council Member Charles Haynie.

He said if the measure is approved at next Tuesday’s general election it will likely cost the city extra money for legal defense. He said the Port of Hood River could be expected to file a lawsuit for a “regulatory takings” when its industrial property was downzoned. However, he said if the city did not enact the new policy, it would likely be sued by CRWD for its inaction.

“I think there is a genuine misunderstanding of the situation,” said Council Member Scott Reynier.

Mayor Paul Cummings pointed out that the city had essentially taken a stand by rejecting the initiative when it was first presented by CRWD this summer, an action which had then sent it to the voters.

“Normally I try to be very proactive but this is one of those situations where I don’t think being proactive ahead of the vote is a good idea,” Cummings said.

Council Member Linda Rouches believed that the council needed to actively work to educate citizens within the next week about the complexity of issues related to waterfront development.

Guenther gave the nod for the elected officials to print their individual views in the newspaper or by e-mail distribution.

The city decided not to address the disputed planning commission review of the waterfront zoning ordinance.

The officials agreed that the appointed body should finish drafting its recommendation for consideration at a later date.

At the Oct. 27 meeting, Planning Commission Chair Jurgen Hess briefly outlined his objection to recent news coverage of the group’s deliberations.

He expressed worry that the article had focused on the discussion over a large park, incorrectly creating the perception that the issue had already been decided.

Hess pointed out that a vote to set aside Lots 6 and 7 as open space, the proposal most similar to the CRWD initiative, had failed by a 5-1 vote.

“I think we owe it to you to look at all sides, we owe it to the public,” said Hess. “As long as I’m the chair I pledge that we will give you the best recommendation that we can.”

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