City fee appeal measure cleared to collect signatures

Judge Olson rewords measure after finding neither sides language meets state law criteria

This article has been updated and clarified from the Oct. 3 print edition.

Backers of a ballot measure which seeks to limit the amount of money the city of Hood River can charge for land use decision appeals are cleared to try for a spring ballot.

The ballot measure is seeking to cap appeal fees for individuals at $500 or 1 percent of annual income and $500 for registered nonprofits.

The measure was submitted by Derek Bell, Linda Maddox and Michelle Hollister, who then proceeded to challenge, through attorney Brent Foster, the language used by City Attorney Dan Kearns in the ballot title the city submitted.

The group believed that Kearns used biased language in drafting the ballot measure question, caption and summary which would appear on the ballot and challenged the language in court.

Judge John Olson agreed with petitioners that Kearns’ language did not meet state law — but also ruled that the alternative language posed by the petitioners did not, either.

“We were encouraged the judge found the ballot measure adopted by the city didn’t comply with state law; that was an important finding and why we challenged it,” Foster said.

“I find that that ballot title fails to comply with ORS 250.035 (1),” Olson wrote. “But that Mr. Foster’s proposed alternatives would also fail to comply with ORS 250.035 (1).”

Instead, he drafted his own alternative language, which it appears both sides wound up somewhat happy with.

“He wove them both together,” Kearns said of the approach Olson took to the competing languages submitted by the two sides.

In his rewrites, Olson substituted or deleted language he felt was editorial, and attempted to clarify areas he felt were ambiguous or unclear.

Some of those changes included substituting “people and nonprofit groups” for “certain groups and individuals” in the ballot question to clarify for whom appeals would be capped.

The question now reads “shall Hood River revise its charter to limit and subsidize land use appeal fees for people and nonprofit groups?”

He agreed with Kearns over ambiguity of the words “applicant” and “appellant” in the measure.

He cited the case of Wolf v. Meyers as precedent for not attempting to resolve the confusion between the two terms, which Kearns argued made it unclear whether the measure capped fees for the original land use permit or applicant or the appellant, and Foster argued was the language used in the city code.

“When it appears that more than one reading of the wording of the contested measure is plausible, our precedents are clear that it is inappropriate for this court, at this stage, to resolve the ambiguity in the measure,” Olson wrote, quoting from Wolf v. Meyers.

Instead of clarifying the meaning of the language, Olson inserted “(undefined)” after the word “applicant” in his measure text.

‘‘He chose a reasonable and common-sense way of approaching it,” said Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz.

“(Olson) did a better job of making clear what this measure does in limiting appeal fees to citizens and nonprofits to a maximum of $500,” Foster said. “It’s reasonable to have an appeal fee but not to have a $5,000 appeal fee; that blocks the majority of the people in Hood River from arguing their case before city council.”

Foster said the measure’s backers had not figured out their timeline on proceeding, but that getting on a special election ballot as soon as March remains a possibility.

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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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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