Park pact remains in limbo

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

April 22

The Hood River Port Commission is ready to stop the “pingpong” match over waterfront park development guidelines.

This week the elected body shipped its fifth version of the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) for Lot 6 off to the City of Hood River. The port board debated on Tuesday about just signing off on the document that had been amended to eliminate any reference to the Columbia River Mixed Use Zone. However, the port decided to grant the city council the courtesy of reviewing the text first for any unseen errors or unaddressed concerns. The IGA has been repeatedly changed over the past six months at both ends to accommodate recommendations from officials and staff.

“This IGA has been bounced back and forth many times. And while it’s very important to get it right, we also need to get it done,” said Port President Sherry Bohn.

Without the joint agreement in place, the port will not turn over the deed to the city for about six acres along the shoreline. That property is designated to be used as a public park and a joint port/city advisory committee is already working to score state grant funding. However, the requested $500,000 is unlikely to be turned over to the local community without the property transfer being completed and development details worked out.

In the latest IGA text, the port deleted any language regarding Ordinance 1851. That move underscored the port’s recent request that 23 acres along the shoreline be left in its current light industrial zoning. The port believes it needs to change course from proposed commercial and residential land use designations to meet the growing demand for an expanded local business base.

At the April 19 meeting, the port declined to incorporate six new conditions requested by the city into the IGA. City attorney Alexandra Sosnkowski had sent a letter on April 13 informing the port that the city would agree to forgo its adoption of 1851 if a set of requested criteria was granted.

The city wants the port’s new master planning process to address variable building heights to prevent any singular wall of construction, establish a view corridor from Second Street and a pathway along the entire shoreline. In addition, the city is seeking a 75-foot setback along the riverfront for riparian protection and preservation of wetlands along the Hood River and the riverside jetty known as the Hook.

The port believed the IGA was not the proper venue to deal with these land-use issues. In the last two years, three citizen initiatives have been ruled illegal by state agencies because they circumvented existing statutes. The port did not want to inadvertently stray into that same territory. However, the agency has agreed to discuss the city’s list during the planning process, which will take place during the next several months.

The port board is hoping to overcome a challenge that Hood River County is facing in attracting new companies. A lack of “shovel ready” sites has kept several industries from siting in the local area — and bringing in more jobs.

On Monday, the city council will look over the port’s revised IGA at 6 p.m. in the municipal courtroom at the junction of State and Second streets. Councilors will decide whether to pull 1851 without having their conditions met, or proceed with the mixed-use zoning plan.

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