State Parks, county meet on Cove hotel plan
Representatives of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which is in the process of updating the master plan for the Cove Palisades State Park, met with the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners June 26, to listen to ideas for the state's park property.
M.G. Devereux, the deputy director of State Parks, said that he hopes to start a conversation about how people are currently using the resource, and how they will be in the future.
"We want to have a good sense of what is possible," he said, noting that State Parks is wrapping up the master plan for Pilot Butte, while working on the Smith Rock plan, but ready to begin the Cove Palisades plan.
In late May, the county announced that it had been meeting with State Parks on a plan to allow a hotel and conference center on the canyon's eastern rim, above the lake.
The county is considering the formation of an urban renewal district, which would encompass about 27,000 acres, from the rim of the canyon to the north, south and east to Highway 361 in certain areas.
An urban renewal district can be formed under state law to improve the economic viability of an area, and get rid of blight, as the city of Madras has done. The district helps municipalities fund improvements.
According to Devereux, the state attempts "to balance recreation with natural, cultural and scenic values."
The department will gather an advisory committee with local interests, recreation users, governmental agencies, nongovernmental agencies, and people concerned about the property.
"We use that advisory committee to guide the process," he said. "This advisory committee is how we get a sense of how things are going."
State Parks and Recreation holds three meetings — a local meeting to gather information, a second meeting to define and narrow down "what we're considering," and a third to present a final draft of the plan for public comment.
"The county has some interesting proposals that we've already looked at," said Devereux, pointing out that the State Park property is only a small part of the land, which is a patchwork of federal and state property.
The advisory committee should start to form at the beginning of August, to formally kick off the planning process, which he expects to take about 18 months.
Mickey Killingsworth, of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau, requested that someone from the agriculture community be included on the committee.
"At this time," she said, "we do not support the county's proposal to put a lodge there. We think it's key that you look at historical ramifications."
Don Reeder, representing the family of John and Nancy Hinchey, who bought the property that became Lake Chinook Village in the 1970s, said it was their dream to have a development adjacent to Lake Chinook Village.
On the property they own adjacent to State Park property, "What we're hoping to do in the future is a destination resort," he said, noting that it would take some pressure off camping facilities.
Real estate broker Barbara Barany said that there is "a big need of people that want to buy property, want to recreate over here. There are not enough places for them to go. There's quite a bit of property that could be developed up there."
Representing Roff Farms, Vicky Roff, of Culver, said that her family has farmed 900 acres in that area since the early 1960s. "We'll be impacted quite a bit by this," she said, noting that although their access is off Feather Drive, "Our land runs along the viewpoint, down the south side of Round Butte."
The farming operation means that there is "field burning, dust, spraying, and that's just part of it," she noted. "We're third generation farming, with the fourth coming in, and we're concerned about that. We're concerned about wildlife; it's winter range for deer. There are a lot of birds and eagles."
Surprising his family, 12-year-old Cole Roff got up to speak. "I'm concerned because that borders our farm; it affects my future," he said. "Hunting would go away. I want to farm and hunt."
Following the State Parks discussion, the commission moved on to discussion of the process for setting up an urban renewal district.
Elaine Howard, of Elaine Howard Consulting, who is working with the county, explained that URDs are "a financing tool for cities and counties."
When the district is formed, she said, no new taxes are imposed, but rather, there is a division of taxes from other districts that go to the URD. "The (taxes on) increased value above the frozen base goes to the urban renewal agency," she said.
Taxpayers see a line item attributed to the urban renewal district, but it's actually a division of taxes they already pay. Bonds and local option levies are not impacted.
"A lot of times, you won't have a lot of money unless that development happens," she said.
The county has proposed a 27,000-acre URD, which Howard said would be the largest she has ever done.
In addition to the hotel near the rim, the county's plans include trails for horses, bikes and hikers, which would be funded by property taxes from new investments in the district.