COLUMBIA GORGE In a few of its recent decisions, the Columbia River Gorge Commission has approved a home with solar panels, an outdoor light, and a zoning change that could allow an $80 million, 245-unit destination resort.
Wait a minute. What was that last one again?
Ever since the commission formed in 1987 to protect the Gorge, the owners of the former Broughton Lumber mill just west of White Salmon, Wash., have been trying to turn an eyesore into a moneymaker. Their current proposal offers condominiums, shops and meeting places for birders, bikers and kite-boarders, creating an estimated 288 construction jobs and $8 million in annual tourism spending.
“Our intention is to build something that fits in the Gorge and enhances it,” says Broughton general manager Jason Spadaro, who lobbied the commission for two and half years to amend its management plan. On April 8, the commission consented, with stipulations, by a 10-2 vote.
Michael Lang, conservation director for Portland-based Friends of the Gorge says the vote “weakens the protections of the National Scenic Area Act” by paving the way for the largest development ever allowed in the protected area. “That’s the precedent we’re worried about,” Lang says.
Tom Ascher, a land-use planner for the commission, counters that the rule change applies narrowly to former industrial properties outside designated urban areas. Besides, Broughton hasn’t applied yet, much less won approval. The coming round of processes and appeals is expected to take several years. Who knows? By then maybe the real estate market will rebound.
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