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Developer’s Motive Questioned in Park Plan

August 13, 2008 by   - () Leave a Comment

Some eyebrows are raised in Mosier, Ore., a community of 500 people located in the picturesque Columbia River Gorge region, 70 miles upstream from Portland, because the developer of an RV park is bankrolling the process to update the county’s land use and development ordinance.
“They’re paying for the privilege of having the ordinance changed,” noted Charles Barker at the Aug. 5 county plan commission workshop. He lives up the hill from the park managed and soon to be owned by Bellevue, Wash.-based Aventura. “It’s gonna be hard to say no, isn’t it?”
“Not at all,” said planning commission chair Donald Hoffman, to which Barker retorted: “Good.”
While it has made no land use application, according to The Dalles (Ore.) Chronicle, Aventura is already prominently advertising on its website “the coming Sunshine Ridge resort” above Mosier with ownership view lots – essentially, exclusive, landscaped spaces to park a motorhome – from $79,000 to $499,999.
Wasco County Planning Director Todd Cornett says the company has been in contact with him since 2006 about what it can and can’t do under current land use laws and offered early last year to pay for a process that might result in updates allowing it to put in, in Aventura president Jerry Smith’s words, “a state-of-the-art sewer system” with connections to each of the 540 spaces it is permitted for.
If that happens, Mosier resident and city councilwoman Kathy Fitzpatrick worries it would effectively create a “city” on the hill larger than Mosier itself and carrying big implications for water supplies and fire safety.
Smith counters that it’s a modernization of an existing RV park, not an expansion, that the company is committed to being a good neighbor, and that estimates that the resort will bring $25 million to $50 million annually into local economies should make it “a win-win for everyone.”
Developer Pays $16,470 for Land Use Revision
Meanwhile, Wasco County sees an opportunity to use someone else’s dime to fry a bigger fish: a partial but much-needed update to a decades-old ordinance for the whole county. There’s no obligation to Aventura on outcome, said Cornett. The company’s willingness to invest $16,470 to pay the county’s chosen consultant and its planning staff to do the work simply moved this particular long-range planning project to the top of a list of 30.
Some residents are concerned about the expanded park’s effect on water quality and quantity. Others were worried about wildfires, with Barker fearing an Aventura project would mean added congestion and new Mosier fire chief Jim Appleton asking whether such a project would add to his limited tax base and revenue stream.
Meanwhile, some Mosierites remain suspicious of plans by Aventura that may – or may not – ever come to fruition.
Smith, contacted by phone after the Aug. 5 workshop, sought to offer reassurances to them on a number of levels.
He said the resort would remain strictly an RV park, though the intent would be to leave it open year-round if lot “owners” – who, in fact, would hold 99-year leases – wish to use their sites during all seasons.
Meanwhile, he said, owners would be encouraged to put their sites back into a rental pool, while other sites would be rented directly on a short-term basis. That means, he said, that the resort would function more as a public RV park than a private one, as under previous operators.
That’s the only difference from what’s been up there before, he insisted, other than the fact that the company wants to modernize the park, putting in landscaping, hooded lights and an observatory that has them equally interested in dark skies.
“Our main goal here is to try to put together something that everybody can be proud of,” he said.

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