Settlement With Naito Development Finalized
November 25, 2014
Friends of the Hood River Waterfront is pleased to announce the settlement of the conflict over the Naito development at Nichols Boat Basin. As in any negotiation, there was give and take on all sides. This settlement comes after more than two years of intense litigation, many city hearings, two successful legal challenges at the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals and a win at the Oregon Court of Appeals and is better than what we might have achieved through further litigation.
What will the settlement do?
• Protect riparian habitat: The City of Hood River will purchase the 2-acre riverfront section of the Naito property for preservation of riparian habitat and a natural park. The proposed commercial building, which was originally located right at the river’s edge, will be moved back away from the water and out of the floodplain. Columbia Riverkeeper, a non-profit group dedicated to the health of the river, has been granted a permanent conservation easement to ensure the long-term protection of this property.
• Ensure public access and permanently prohibit cable parks or similar projects: The agreement’s long-term conservation protections have forever saved the water of Nichol’s Basin for public use instead of for a cable park or another private commercial endeavor. As you recall, this was an early subject of our objections and a big win.
• Protect water quality: The Naito’s hotel and commercial development will have to meet strict stormwater pollution standards so that only on the rarest of occasions would any contaminated stormwater enter the Columbia River or Nichol’s Basin. This is likely one of the most protective stormwater control plans for any hotel in the Northwest.
• Allow habitat restoration: The settlement ensures the right to replant and restore the riparian portion of the property. Currently, some of the property is just bare, graded dirt. Friends looks forward to helping replant this area with native trees and shrubs, such as cottonwoods, maples and red osier dogwoods, as part of a public replanting/preservation effort.
The settlement locks in the key protections that have long been the focus of Friends' legal efforts. While many of us would have preferred to see the entire property preserved as a park instead of a hotel and commercial development, we are proud of the lasting protections this settlement will give to Nichol’s Basin and the riparian area next to it.
A complicated settlement like this does not come easy; we have a lot of people to thank. Our sincere thanks to you, our supporters, who attended public meetings, wrote letters to the editor and financially supported more than two years of litigation. Our appreciation goes to Columbia Riverkeeper for agreeing to be the long-term guardian of the property’s riparian conservation area. Special recognition to the City Council, Urban Renewal Agency and especially Mayor Arthur Babitz for the tireless role he played in mediating the settlement. We are especially grateful to our excellent legal team led by attorney Brent Foster who put countless hours into this effort. Finally, thank you to Bob and Steve Naito, the owners of this property, for working with us in good faith to resolve our differences in a way that benefits the community.
Breaking News-- From the City of Hood River September 8, 2014
We want you to be the first to know that the Friends of the Hood River Waterfront is very close to reaching a comprehensive agreement with NBW Hood River LLC regarding their development at the south end of Nichols Boat Basin. This is a complex agreement involving five different entities and the lawyers are still working on the legal documents. The agreement will bring the riparian portion of the NBW Hood River property into City ownership, forever protecting it for public recreation and habitat conservation. This new City park will provide another link in our waterfront path and bring the entire shoreline west of the Hood River/White Salmon Bridge under public ownership. We are also pleased to report that NBW Hood River will build the hotel and commercial building above the 100-year floodplain.
We appreciate your support these past three years. It's been a long struggle and the proposed agreement is a true compromise. It allows the development to proceed while conserving an important riparian area along the Boat Basin for all to enjoy for years to come.
We will let you know when the agreement is finalized. Thank you again for your generous support!
President, Friends of the Hood River Waterfront
A New Riverfront Park at Nichols Basin?
We have a great opportunity to craft a brand new park on Hood River’s waterfront! The Port is currently deciding the size and design of a park along the west edge of Nichols Basin.
Our vision is a 220-foot wide community park with:
- Ample water access for SUP and kayak launch, swimming, and playing
- A children’s play area and beach with shade trees
- A continuous greenbelt that connects to the Event Site via a pedestrian and bike path
- A contoured and vegetated shoreline with improved salmon habitat (not just more grass for the geese)
Friends win at LUBA
Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) for a second time has rejected the Hood River City Council’s approval of Naito Development’s proposed hotel and commercial building and upheld the key claims in the Friends of the Hood River Waterfront’s (Friends) appeal. Friends had argued to the City Council and then LUBA that the City needed to apply its floodplain development provisions in the City’s Comprehensive Plan to the 20,000 square foot commercial building and 88-room hotel which the Naitos have proposed in the Columbia River floodplain adjacent to Nichols Boat Basin. The Basin is heavily used for public recreation and is federally designated critical habitat used regularly by juvenile salmon.
“In 2013 you would think that the Hood River City Council would not allow a major commercial building and 88-room hotel in a major floodplain,” says Linda Maddox with Friends. “But they not only approved the project, but approved it without even applying their own flood protection rules in the City's Comprehensive Plan. This really defies common sense.”
Friends attorney Brent Foster argued the case before LUBA and agreed. “Every few years you can see the effects of the lack of floodplain planning on the evening news when a large flood wipes out poorly planned development on the edge of a river. The City’s notion that it can approve intensive floodplain development without any setback from the river puts water quality and salmon at risk as well as the public and first responders.”
If the Naitos or City do not appeal the ruling, the Naito’s project will go back to the City Council which will have the opportunity to either require the project to comply with City’s Comprehensive Plan floodplain protection rules or to modify the project to move the commercial building and hotel out of the floodplain.
“The City has tried to force this development through for years instead of just requiring the Naitos to plan a project that can actually be built,” added Maddox. “It’s really time for both the Naitos and the City to re-think the wisdom of placing a development like this in a floodplain along the Columbia River.”
Friends urge the City and the Naitos to revise the project to include a river setback that would protect water quality, juvenille salmon habitat and a public waterfront path.
City Council to consider effectively eliminating land-use appeals
Come speak out against outrageous appeal fees in the City of Hood River. On Monday June 10, at 6 pm, the Hood River City Council will consider a radical new planning fee proposal which will price all but the richest individuals and corporations out of participation in the land-use process.
Current City appeal fees are already among the highest in the state--as much as $5,000-- putting them out of reach for many people. The new fee proposal would go much further by requiring anyone wanting to appeal a Planning Commission decision to City Council to agree to open-ended and UNLIMITED charges on top of an initial $1,600 payment! The proposed fee change would require you to sign a legal contract agreeing to pay the City for all legal costs that it decides to spend fighting your appeal.
Before you could ask the City Council to reconsider a Planning Commission decision, whether approving a Super Walmart or rejecting the addition of a new bedroom to your home, you would have to sign a contract in which you agree to pay all the City's appeal costs regardless of whether the City decides to spend $10,000, $20,000, or more on lawyers and consultants opposing your appeal and regardless of whether the City's decision is ultimately overturned. How many people can afford to agree to a fee without knowing how big it will be?
This new method for establishing planning fees is in complete contradiction to statewide planning goals which promote citizen involvement as Goal One. Citizen involvement in planning is one of the bedrock rights which we as Oregonians have. This new proposal will virtually take it away!
On Monday April 8th at 6 pm, the Hood River City Council will conduct a remand hearing on the Naito's plan for a 4-story hotel, retail/office building and 230 space parking lot at the south end of Nichols Boat Basin. Last year, Friends appealed the City's approval of the project to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) because we believed it did not comply with federal, state and city law related to the floodplain, storm water management and natural resource protection. LUBA agreed with Friends and remanded the case back to the City for further consideration. These are real issues that the public should be concerned about. All of the issues are solvable. We believe with design changes the Naitos can be on their way towards constructing a project that meets their commercial goals while protecting public safety and respecting the environment.Remand at Hood River City Council
Issues with proposal:
Port Rejects Cable Park
On November 14 by a 4 to 1 vote the Port Commission rejected the cable park. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who sent letters to the Port, City and newspaper, signed the petition, went to the Float-in, went to meetings, talked to friends and neighbors and generally supported public access at Nichols Basin. You are what makes Hood River special.
Hood River Cable Park
The Nichols Basin may turn into the Hood River Cable Park.
The Port of Hood River is considering leasing one of Hood River's best multi-use recreation sites to a Portland developer to turn into a private cable park.
The cable wakeboarding park would shut off public access to the vast majority of Nichol's Basin all summer. Currently, hundreds of locals and tourists use the Basin weekly for SUP, kayaking, windsurfing and other water fun. All of those users will be excluded if the cable park is built. If you use and love the Basin, contact the Port now to SAVE it for public use.
Alternative Plan Proposed
Port Commission President Jon Davies and Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz have crafted a proposal to end the wrangling about Nichols Basin. Under their plan, the Naitos would drop the cable park and instead the shoreline of the Basin would be developed as a waterfront park. Their plan embraces the alternative vision for the basin that we have been advocating all along.While we like much about the plan, the challenge will be to turn it into something real and enforceable. So far the Naitos have refused to enter a normal legal settlement process. For more details: Hood River News
The September 8th Float In in support of maintaining full public access to Nichols Basin was a blast. Thank you to the 175+ people who came to float on crafts of all kinds and also to the folks on the shore cheering us on. There were lots of requests to make this an annual event if we win this fight. Sounds good to us. We'll add costumes and decorated boats and some contests, like obstacle courses and best SUP riding dog. Here's a video of the event https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7EB3efEObo
Enhance Recreation and Support Quality Development
Friends of the Hood River Waterfront are working to preserve and enhance public access and recreation in the basin. We support an alternative vision to the proposed cable park that includes infrastructure development like additional water access points, storage for SUP boards, beautifully landscaped pedestrian walkways and gathering spaces to support the kind of people-powered water sports that have made Hood River famous.