Port offers six acres for park

June 18

The Port of Hood River has offered to donate six acres of riverfront property for a public park in return for some mixed-use development.

“This is a spirit of compromise, something that enables us to move forward and accomplish something that will serve all of the community,” said Sherry Bohn, who will assume duties as port president later this month.

Although the City of Hood River has been notified about the pending offer, the details of the proposal are still being finalized. The port hopes to forward a full plan to municipal officials prior to July 14. On that date, the Planning Commission will deliberate on a revised version of Ordinance 1851, the Columbia River Mixed-Use Zone.

That hearing, originally slated for Thursday, was changed to ensure that city attorney Alexandra Sosnkowski was available to address any legal issues. The proceedings will begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at Second and State streets.

The port has objected to Councilor Paul Thompson’s plan for a 5.4 acre linear park along both Lots 6 and 7 with a 1.5 acre parking lot. The public entity contends it is being denied any land base with direct access to the Columbia River. According to port authorities, without at least four acres of prime property, it cannot attract a quality business, such as a hotel/restaurant or convention center, that will draw other enterprises. Lyons believes his alternative, which grants the port about four acres along the shoreline, eliminates the potential for legal “takings” claim.

He is optimistic that the city and port can reach an agreement on the exact siting of the new park north of Portway Avenue. By blending a park with business, retail and light industrial use of the waterfront, Lyons said both recreational and economic development opportunities will be created.

“It’s a direction. The port is trying to move forward in the hope that we get a zone that we all can live with,” said Lyons.

The port is currently in the process of re-appraising its waterfront holdings to determine their actual value. Dave Harlan, port director, said in 1996 the property that now houses Home Shield, formerly Western Power, was appraised at $185,000 per acre.

On Tuesday, the port board reached consensus that the rough outline from Lyons was workable but needed to be fine-tuned. In return for providing a park, the port is expected to ask the city for more flexibility in some building heights and with circumference. Lyons has also reintroduced the provision that a study of air flows along the Columbia River be triggered by a building application that exceeds the current maximum height of 45 feet. That draft standard was removed by the council when it sent Thompson’s plan to the planning commission.

City officials felt the issue was no longer relevant since a linear park would place buildable properties away from the shoreline. Thompson believed that any “Wind Shadow” study would be subjective and leave all development open to a challenge. The Citizens for Responsible Waterfront Development, advocates of a large park, had lobbied for the provision. The group claimed that windsurfing and kiteboarding at the Event Site could be adversely affected by any building that blocked the passage of the wind.

If building heights end up being restricted in the new zoning plan, Lyons recommends the square footage be expanded to to preserve both usage and value.

Once an intergovernmental agreement has been reached, and all parties have signed on the dotted line, the port has stated that it will be pleased to turn over the deed to the new park.

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