Country Club road changes go full speed ahead

July 23, 2011

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Country Club road is scheduled to undergo significant changes next spring, with the intersection at Cascade Ave. being abandoned.

A long-stalled plan to reroute Country Club Road could go ahead as soon as next spring pending a public notice and approval by the Hood River City Council Aug. 8.

The plan calls for the abandonment of the failing intersection of Country Club and Cascade, curving the road to run parallel south of Cascade Avenue where it will intersect with a new road, Mt. Adams Street. Mt. Adams will then intersect with Cascade.

The arrangement was originally proposed as a failed initiative by Walmart to build a superstore in the area several years ago. It was revived last month when Jeff Pickhardt, president of Bend-based Key Development Corporation, approached the city and offered to complete the project.

ODOT had set aside $3 million for the project to go along with $500,000 by the city. ODOT had originally estimated that the project would cost $5.8 million through a competitive building process.

However Key Development offered to complete the project for a cost of between $4-5 million.

According to Hood River City Manager Bob Francis, Key Development has agreed to cover any costs above the $3.5 million dedicated by ODOT and the city.

"This is the best chance we'll have to redevelop Country Club Road," Francis said. "All the prior people who have been interested in it backed out."

To allow Key to move forward with the project, the city has to submit a public notice to exempt them from the competitive bidding process. The public bidding exemption passed muster with Hood River City Attorney Dan Kearns at a city council meeting earlier this month. The Hood River City Council authorized the city to move forward on the exemption at that meeting. Once the public notice has been posted for 14 days it will receive a public hearing and the agreement between the city and Key Development will be voted on at the Aug. 8 council meeting.

To keep the ODOT funds, which were transferred from the Button Junction project, the road needs to be finished by Dec. 31, 2013.

Mayor Arthur Babitz was overjoyed at the prospect of getting the road done - a process that has been in the works since 2004, and at no further cost to the city.

"This is great for the residents of the city because usually a developer asks for more public money" to cover overruns, he said. "We are getting needed road work done on a pretty short time frame."

Key did get public funds - just not additional ones - and Pickhardt said that doing the needed upgrades to Country Club required for development work would have been "a lot more difficult."

"This started a while ago when we had discussions with ODOT over Country Club Road and they said there may be some funds available," Pickhardt said. "Without the public funds the feasibility becomes much harder."

Pickhardt was not concerned with a quick timeline because it is also in Key's best interests to have a road completed as soon as possible.

It is working on developing property near what would be the reroute of Country Club road, and it currently lacks substantial access. The property owner cannot move ahead with developments until a road is completed.

While both sides have an interest in getting a road completed, the agreement between Key and the city does not contain any promises that future development will be allowed off the road.

"There are no future promises," Pickhardt said.

Once the road is completed, the abandoned stretch of Country Club may be kept open as a pedestrian or bike path.

The easements for the project were originally purchased by Walmart for its superstore in 2004, but after the project was denied plans for redeveloping the road stalled out.

However, after years of nothing getting moving, Pickhardt's proposal has things on the fast track.

"From a timing perspective we were hopeful we could get it done faster … the city is taxed with a high workload," Pickhardt said.

He added that if the plan is approved they intend to do design work in the winter and then begin construction in the spring.

Francis was happy that things finally appear to moving on the project.

"If the council approves," he said. "We will be on our way."

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