The Hood River City Council this week discussed procedure for the upcoming hearing on a the latest state Land Use Board of Appeals remand on whether Wal-Mart still has the right to expand its Hood River location based on the original site plan approval 22 years ago. Mayor Arthur Babitz says the December 2 hearing will be on the record and focused on that narrow question, and there will be no open public testimony. Each party will be limited to ten minutes to speak, and are also being asked by the Council to submit their documents by November 18. The latest remand came in the wake of the Council invoking the “rule of necessity” to compel Councilor Kate McBride to vote after she recused herself due to past work with groups opposing a Wal-Mart Superstore in Hood River County in order to break a tie. LUBA found the Council did not make enough of an effort to arrive at a decision before bringing in McBride, and should have required a full disclosure of relevant ex-parte communications.
In making a request to The Dalles City Council asking for assistance in funding marketing for the 50th anniversary of the Fort Dalles Rodeo, Rodeo Association President Damon Hulit mentioned the possibility the 2015 event could be the final one. The rodeo’s Milt Tumilson Arena is on land formally owned by Northwest Aluminum that is currently on the market, and is leased to the rodeo on a year-to-year basis. Hulit says the possibility the rodeo could soon have no home continues to linger, adding a search for other locations has not been fruitful. Hulit does say rodeo organizers are concentrating on making their 50th anniversary event in 2015 a celebration of its history.
The Hood River County Christmas Project is getting underway. The project helps about 500 families a year with holiday food and gifts. Organizer Bruce Holmson says they will begin sign-ups for the boxes on November 7 continuing through December 6. Signups will be taken Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Department of Human Services office on 1610 Ninth Court beginning the weekend of November 7 and continuing through the first weekend of December, except Thanksgiving weekend. They are also planned for Cascade Locks City Hall on November 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Odell Food Bank November 13 and December 4 from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the Parkdale Community Church November 10 and 24 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Applicants must live in Hood River County and meet state low income guidelines.
The Mt. Adams Parks and Recreation District is asking voters to approve a 19-cent per thousand dollars property tax levy on the November 4 ballot. The district was formed four years ago but a tax rate to fund it was rejected. District board member Dana Scheffler says they are seeking basic funding to operate, and meet the requests they have received from the public. The request is a six-year levy. The district runs from Dallesport westward, including most of western Klickitat County.
The Four Rivers Early Learning Hub, to oversee services for children through age 5 in Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam, and Wheeler counties, is in process of being approved by the state. Hood River County Prevention Department Director Joella Dethman, who is serving as an interim coordinator for the hub, says they are in the final stages of getting state approval, and should be an official hub by April. Dethman says the goal of the hub is to coordinate services for young children to help them get off to a good educational start while providing accountability on results.
Hood River City officials are working with state officials to establish the new restroom facility on State Street currently under construction to be a part of the Gorge Bicycle Hub. The hub will feature locations from Wood Village to The Dalles to provide a place for bicyclists to stop. Hood River City Manager Steve Wheeler says the State Street location will include a bicycle rack and water fountain, but added Hood River didn’t need to do too many things because there are so many bike shops near that location. Wheeler noted Hood River was first in line for the bicycle hub because of the rest room construction.
The Dalles City Council, acting in its capacity as the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency, got an update from Rapoza Development on its efforts to obtain funding for a proposed hotel and other amenities in the Granada block. Michael Leash of Rapoza was upbeat about gaining the necessary funding, bringing experts in acquiring funding through New Market Tax Credits at the state and federal level and the federal EB-5 program which solicits international investment through an employment based immigrant visa program. Jason Pasternak of Wave Hospitality Advisors said they remain focused on meeting a deadline to purchase the properties on the block from Urban Renewal by a December 31 deadline, saying one term sheet with an investor has committed $200,000l, and two more term sheets for $750,000 to $1,000,000 are outstanding at this time. Councilor Bill Dick call the investor news a potential “game changer,” while Mayor Steve Lawrence says he remains focused on what could be put together by the December 31 deadline.
The Dalles City Council decided to roll back its planned water rate increase for this year from ten percent to five percent. Councilors received a report from City Public Works Director Dave Anderson that municipal water revenue was already $284,000 over what they expected this fiscal year. The Council has been wrestling with an unpopular rate increase plan while dealing with how to pay for a list of needed capital improvement projects. Councilor Tim McGlothlin is in favor of the drop in the rate increase, and wants to find more ways to chop it down. Anderson said increased industrial water use led to the water revenue jump.
The Dalles City Council voted to pass an ordinance to establish a tax on the sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. Measure 91 on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana limits the right to tax it to the state, sparking a number of cities and counties to adopt ordinances to establish a tax before the vote in anticipation of the measure passing. Mayor Steve Lawrence says while there are concerns about whether a local tax would withstand a legal challenge and whether it is even desirable, he and the Council didn’t want to shut off any options at this point. No tax rate was established in the ordinance. Councilor Dan Spatz voted against it, saying he believed the marijuana question should be handled at the federal level.