Naitos would shelve cable park, if Port and city can fund Nichols Basin restoration

What's wrong with this picture? Port and city of Hood River leaders think they have an idea that could improve the view.

Rather than stand back and let the forces of pro and con sling sticks and stones at each other across the Nichols Boat Basin — “Cable park, YES!” “Cable park, NO!” — two of the elected point people positioned to achieve peaceful resolution have developed a nice olive branch.

Port Commission Chair Jon Davies this afternoon told the Buzz that he and Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz hope to generate support from their respective bodies for a plan to use urban renewal funds for a Nichols Basin revitalization effort.

In exchange for environmental restoration and visual enhancement — including a pedestrian esplanade linking the Event Site with the eastern terminus of the Port’s walking trail near the Hood River footbridge — the two officials have secured agreement from Naito Development to suspend plans to push forward with their cable park concept.

The park is just one part of plans to develop a hotel, restaurant and office-retail space at the south end of the basin.

“We’re both concerned that this (Nichols Basin dispute) would end in a prolonged legal battle,” Davies said. “It could be very divisive. What we’re proposing is that we take a different direction, in a more positive light.”

By working through Urban Renewal, the city could fund basin improvements with tax revenues generated by increased property value after completion of the proposed Hampton Inn & Suites at the south end of the basin.

The esplanade improvements would augment the Port’s Lot 1 development efforts, and complete the waterfront trail.

Davies said the economic benefit to Lot 1 is just the first of three goals. The vision also includes improved access to the basin for water users, and environmental enhancement to the banks and lagoon itself.

“This is my and Arthur’s idea,” Davies said. “We want to bring it to the Port Commission and Urban Renewal Board.

“And the Naitos would drop the cable park. We’ve asked them to put it on hold, to let the community take an alternative look, that the community can support.”

More details when we have them.


28 comments for “Naitos would shelve cable park, if Port and city can fund Nichols Basin restoration

  1. Jon Davies
    September 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Stu- I think that’s a fair summary. Let me just point one more time for emphasis, that in order to bring this idea forward, Mayor Babits and myself are acting as individuals and not in our official capacity.

    Jon Davies

  2. NancyR
    September 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I love this idea – especially the environmental restoration and pathway. Thanks for moving constructively forward.

  3. Trent
    September 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Excellent news!

  4. nels
    September 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Since when does Naito Corp have the chips to say ‘we will drop if…’ ? And using urban renewal govt/our tax money to put in a trail and enhance is simply taking care of part of the agreement/ need to landscape and put in place the walking trail as already agreed upon? HR port or city does not need to buy it’s way out of this by using govt funds to build a private business’ landscaping.

    • M
      September 30, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      Awesome comment. Thanks!

  5. Mike Stroud
    September 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Many thanks to Mayor Babitz and Commissioner Davies for thier creativity and efforts regarding this matter. This is truely a step in the right direction!

  6. Paul
    September 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Sounds like a winner to me.

  7. September 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    What an ingenious idea! The taxpayers get to pay for the landscaping of the hotel in exchange for them not renting the basin for pennies on the dollar. Of course since the basin is a navigable waterway they would never have been legally allowed to put in the cable park anyway. I’ve got to hand it to Naito. They’re pretty clever at figuring out ways to try to sell the public on handing over precious public resources or using public funds to pay for the hotel’s private business expenses. How about just running an honest business like the rest of us? Stop trying to shake down the public and we’ll stop complaining.

    • M
      September 30, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Exactly. Well said. Imagine being duped by these guys? Never. Lol.

  8. JoAnne
    September 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    I have to admit, I’m with Nels and Mark on this one. Very nice bit of smoke and mirrors work that substituted the cable park ‘controversy’ for the real conversation of “Why are we building another hotel when the town is already quite full of tourists in the summer and all of the existing lodging facilities are struggling to make it through each winter?” Why isn’t the discussion addressing the real problem of how to make it year ’round here instead of trying to fund private interests with public money?

  9. Jon Davies
    September 29, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Perhaps I should clairify that our concept is to use URA money to enhance public property.
    Jon Davies

    • M
      September 30, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      No UR funds for a 1% like Naito. Hubris and back room deals. Nothing changes.

  10. Gary
    September 29, 2012 at 3:12 am

    I have to agree with Mark. The old hegelian dialectic: problem, reaction, solution. And then next year they’ll be proposing a tax increase, to pay for the beautiful basin “we couldn’t possibly do without.”

  11. Arthur Babitz
    September 30, 2012 at 2:30 am

    Mark and Nels– You’ve read something into this proposal that wasn’t intended. I can be really clear: I would not propose using public funds for landscaping private property. The UR funds would be for Port owned property which would be open to the general public– basically to make the west rim of the basin into public access/ public park space. The Naitos haven’t asked us to landscape their property, we haven’t proposed that, and I can’t imagine the UR Board approving it.

    • September 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      As if the Hotel won’t benefit greatly from the millions of dollars they want the taxpayers to spend. Why is it being presented to us as an ultimatum? Do we really need to be threatened by a private company to do something completely for our own benefit?

  12. Greg Colt
    September 30, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Thank you Mark and Nels for exposing another angle. I, however; feel that Jon and Arthur have come up with an excellent solution and a wise use of the Utban Renual tool from which we will all benefit. We are fortunate to have such dedicated elected officials and some of the time I even agree with them.

  13. Heather
    October 1, 2012 at 4:15 am

    I understand the skepticism a few of you have expressed with this proposal. I encourage you to learn more about it. I have had time to ask serious questions of the Mayor and Port President and after scrutinizing it carefully I am very enthusiastic.

    It’s important to note that all of the improvements will occur on public property, this is not about tax money being spent on private property and the plan does not include ANY tax increase. Most of what’s proposed (pedestrian esplanade, landscaping, habitat enhancement etc.) aren’t new ideas. They were written into the Waterfront Urban Renewal District plan and budget back in 2008 and have been the subject of much discussion at the Port Commission’s Lot 1 planning sessions this year. What is new is the speed of deploying the Urban Renewal funding. This funding acceleration is made possible because the waterfront has developed at such a fast pace–the tax increment available to fund Urban Renewal projects is bigger quicker than was anticipated in 2008.

    Yes, turning the west side of the basin into a kind of linear park will help the Naito’s businesses, but the improvements will also help all the businesses located at the waterfront. Downtown businesses will benefit with new connectivity to the Event Site through the great new trail. Parks are good for business. You only need to look at the west end of the waterfront to see an instructive example of how that works. But the improvements aren’t mere tourist attractions, they are amenities that improve the quality of life for us locals–anyone who has walked from the History Museum to the Event Site will appreciate a beautiful trail compared to the dusty shoulder of the road, chain link fence experience we have now.

    If this proposal goes forward, I predict five years from now we’ll all be patting ourselves on the back, proud of our beautiful waterfront, all its recreation opportunities and the economic development it generated.

  14. Bart Vervloet
    October 1, 2012 at 4:39 am

    This proposal has absolutely nothing to do with the Port’s decision on whether to lease to the Naitos or not. The process has started and if the Port listened carefully to their constituents, they should decide not to lease the public waterway and the cable park will go away. Instead, our elected officials “acting, as citizens”, are proposing a taxpayer funded beautification of the west side of the basin if the Naitos will shelve their cable park proposal. Why do the taxpayers have to buy this decision from the Naitos? The Naitos do not own the water, we the citizens do. May I remind these leaders that we can improve the basin with or without the Naitos blessing. Why are we supposed to welcome the reprieve from Naito ugliness in Hood River? While I welcome the idea of restoring and beautifying the basin area, it is a decision that has absolutely nothing to do with the port and the city’s responsibility to complete the process they started, without having to ask for a “shelving” of this amusement park. To you elected officials, I ask you to make the call, say no to the cable park like so many have asked. Show some spine. It is a time for decisions, not shell games at the taxpayer’s expense. Let’s make Hood River beautiful on our terms, when and if we want. To bow down to corporate bullying is the weakest decision yet. To the Naitos, I can only say thank you for your offer to give us what we already own.

    • Nic Richards
      October 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Bart, you speak of bullying and ugliness, but must have forgotten how many lawsuits the ‘Friends’ and company have put on and remain on the table. How many have the Naitos brought forth? This isn’t just about the Naitos shelving ‘things’, it goes both ways. Besides, what on earth have the Naitos done to you to make you hate them so much?? Don’t forget that there are also A LOT of people in this community who are FOR the cable park.

      But way to perpetuate and deepen a divisive issue rather than think positive and cooperative like John, Arthur el al. They are raising a white flag to you and our community with this proposal. They, like others, see the damaging potential of this issue as it stands and are working to bring us a mutually beneficial solution that HAS NO CABLE PARK. Are you so eager for a victory that you are blind to bigger picture compromise? We should be proud to have such dedicated leaders in our community. Looking at it as you have (not to mention the conspiracy theorists like Mark and M) makes one wonder why you are so angry and continue to be angry in light of pretty much getting EXACTLY what you’ve been fighting for this whole time. Have you maybe lost hold on reality in all of this? Fear and anger are powerful emotions and I encourage you to try and look beyond them for the sake of our community and waterfront.

      I have been for the cable park project the entire time, but even I can see this proposal as a good thing for us as a community moving forward. Also, I’m not 100% on this, but I’m fairly certain the portion of funds supposed, will be taken from the hotel tax and not a raised tax. This would likely hinge on the hotel project moving forward mind you. No hotel + waterfront beautification = greater strain on the tax revenue.

      Do you even know what a ‘win win’ is?

  15. Mary Ellen Barilotti
    October 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    The public use doctrine, even if it applies to an artificially altered body of water created for a private purpose (boat building), does not necessarily mean that the public has a right to exclude commercial use of much of the basin for part of the year. Rather that protracted legal battles, without any assurances for either side as to which will prevail, we are now offered a thought out solution that addresses the issues raised during public comment.
    With the cable park out of the equation, we can all look forward to a development that promises to serve the public well. While some folks may be unhappy with some aspect of the proposal, the concept is well worth pursuing and constructive suggestions will help the process along. However negative personal comments directed toward involved individuals looking for a solution does not help the general public obtain a well designed esplanade, habitat restoration, recreational access to the basin and tax revenues from the commercial enterprise proposed by Mr. Naito.

  16. Nilsa
    October 4, 2012 at 2:20 am

     I like the Basin the way it is.  Let the Port and NAITO pay for the ‘Esplanade/Disneyland’ they want to create enhancing their personal property.  Jon & Arthur are presenting a ‘trojan horse’.  Taxpayers will be forever footing the bill.  I’d like gentrification UR funds for resource lands that adjoin my property too?  I guess I need to run for public office to get that accomplished.

    And shame on you Nic, calling people names ‘conspiracy theorists’ because you can’t think of a good argument for taxpayers forced to heed to opportunist. Why compromise to a bad idea?

  17. Nic Richards
    October 4, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    I’m sorry Nilsa, but assuming sweetheart deals, backroom hand shakes and that the Naito’s, Maui, Jon and Arthur (all distinguished and respected public figures) are all out to pull one over on us without solid evidence is theoretic at best and would entail conspiracy at least. If you by chance have some conclusive evidence to back up such claims, I will gladly recant that comment and probably even change my stance and support on this whole project. However, I have yet to see or hear any. …I do appreciate the double standard though… ‘Disneyland, Trojan-Horse’ …yeah.

    The Basin needs improvement. That’s great that you ‘like it the way it is’, you’re entitled to your opinion. But if anything is apparent from this whole process, it’s that the public at large agrees the Basin needs improvement and that the community and economy will benefit greatly from it if done correctly. This will be public funds generated mostly from tourism and property revenue (hotel tax…this could be only partly correct.) going directly towards a public resource. Currently I am at a loss to see what is wrong with that picture.

    Besides, we haven’t even heard all of the details of this proposal yet. Jumping to such bold conclusions seems to be a bit hasty don’t you think?


    • stuwatson
      October 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Just a point of clarification, Nic et. al. As we understand it, the funding for any improvements would come from urban renewal funds, not the transient room tax. Urban renewal uses bonding capacity to pay for infrastructure improvements, which ostensibly increase appeal of an area to developers. When structural improvements are completed — not just the hotel, but on Lot 1 and other parts of Port property — increased property tax receipts from greater assessed value are reserved for bond repayment and additional infrastructure improvements, if needed. It’s a civic bootstrapping mechanism. Tourism dollars go in a different direction. The Port gets none of that. The city keeps 75% of receipts from lodging properties inside city limits, and cuts a check for the other 25% to the Chamber, for tourism promotion only. Hope that helps.

  18. M
    October 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    So we pay to create an amazing space that will compete with an already saturated downtown restaurant market. Great. Go Commish! Work that back room, boys!

  19. Nate DeVol
    October 5, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Not sure if this will demystify Urban Renewal for some of the above commentators, but it is worth a read:

    ORS 457

  20. Nilsa
    October 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Nic, you can add me to your name calling ‘conspiracy theorists’ list when you can give me a good reason:
      – WHY the planning commission has declared illegal private house rentals outside the city limits?  
      – WHY the city wants to ban residential housing along the waterfront? HR News September 29th.
      – WHY the Port is choosing the winners/losers in regards to operating windsurfing schools and food concessions along the Basin instead of just letting the free market dictate?  HR News September 19th & 25th.
      -WHY the public is being threatened with an ultimatum and asked to pick up the tab, in which millions of dollars will spruce up lot #1 for the total economic advantage of Naito.  HR News September 28th.

    It’s easy to believe under the above circumstances that the Port is looking out for our elected officials and their friends.   Who but a hotel developer stands to benefit from the above?

    I am merely pointing out the facts and connecting the dots.  I think we would both agree that the public very much wants to trust all our public servants as they hold great responsibility in managing our public resource lands.  Yet,  when these ‘distinguished and respected’ public figures have a personal stake in a project it is our duty to scrutinize all aspect of the process and it needs to be transparent, especially the finances.  

    (In which case, you were mistaken UR (taxpayer funded) not transient or tourist tax as you indicated.)  Another mistake,  you insinuate is that I too was name calling i.e. ‘trojan horse’ and ‘disneyland’ – here I refer to what officials are presenting to the public.  This is not personal name calling … there is a difference.

    According to you and Mary Ellen, we should essentially ‘shut-up, play nice’ and let the powers that be do our bidding as they know what’s best for us.  Just because you two say the public wants to spend our tax dollars gentrifying lands adjoining Naito’s private property does not mean it is so.  I guess we could both go around and around speculating what the public really wants.  But, convincing, solid evidence is produced because in this case, deals are being made, (Port & Mayor for Naito) the public is not offered a chance to vote on spending millions of dollars enhancing waterfront digs.  Instead, we’re threatened with an ultimatum – “we’ll pull the plug on the cable park (pennies on the dollar) if you (taxpayers) spend millions enhancing the Basin development.”  This is at the heart of arrogance and out of control government.

  21. Mike
    October 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    …this town, or at least its inhabitants, are ridiculous! No wonder it has taken the Port 30years to develop its properties. Hope the SUPers are happy.. the wakeboarders arent.

  22. Nilsa
    October 5, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Nic, you can add me to your name calling ‘conspiracy theorists’ list when you can give me a good reason:
      – WHY the planning commission has declared illegal private house rentals outside the city limits?  
      – WHY the city wants to ban residential housing along the waterfront? HR News September 29th.
      – WHY the Port is choosing the winners/losers in regards to operating windsurfing schools and food concessions along the Basin instead of just letting the free market dictate?  HR News September 19th & 25th.
      -WHY the public is being threatened with an ultimatum and asked to pick up the tab, in which millions of dollars will spruce up lot #1 for the total economic advantage of Naito.  HR News September 28th.

    It’s easy to believe under the above circumstances that the Port is looking out for our elected officials and their friends.   Who but a hotel developer stands to benefit?

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