With a long list of supporters for the proposed "Broughton Landing" resort project already lined up, SDS Lumber Co. President Jason Spadaro is hoping the city of White Salmon will soon sign on as well.
Appearing before the City Council at its Dec. 6 session, Spadaro explained the project -- located at the former Broughton Lumber mill site at Hood, just west of Underwood -- and asked for backing from the council members.
"We want to build support for this, because we're seeking to amend the Management Plan," Spadaro said.
The Columbia River Gorge Commission will ultimately decide whether to allow the Management Plan to be amended to accommodate the Broughton Landing project.
"It's a monumental task to take on the Management Plan in this way, so I need support from municipalities and anyone else," Spadaro said.
The Broughton Landing proposal calls for transforming the largely abandoned mill site into a resort with 245 vacation homes, recreational amenities, and retail shops to serve visitors and local residents.
Spadaro explained that the Broughton development plan was not intended to compete with existing urban areas.
"The retail portion of the development is very limited," he said. "This will be a base camp for the Gorge, but people will go to spend money in the cities. We really want to not be competitors, but be an enhancement to existing businesses."
Proponents of the Broughton Landing project have been working for the past 16 months to resolve concerns and build a plan that has widespread backing.
"We have a strong base of support. That is a testimony to the job we have done to redevelop the site, which is respectful to the Scenic Area but also brings economic development," Spadaro said. "We're still many years away, but this is a critical first step."
Spadaro pointed out that the list of supporters included diverse agencies and businesses such as the Mount Adams Chamber of Commerce, Skamania Lodge, the Port of Skamania County, Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Community Trade & Economic Development, Skamania County Board of Commissioners, Klickitat County Board of Commissioners. He also noted there had been editorials of support in The Columbian and The Enterprise.
In October, the city of Bingen voted unanimously to also lend its support to the project.
"The city of White Salmon should send a letter of support as well," Spadaro said. "We have tried to develop a plan through consensus. This is the outcome of 16 months of collaboration. Only one group remains in opposition -- the Friends of the Gorge -- but otherwise there is virtually unanimous support. And even Friends see the site as potential boost to the area, their only disagreement is with the scale of the site."
City Council member Richard Marx told Spadaro he thought the project would be beneficial to the region.
"With so many in support of it, I'd be inclined to support it," Marx said.
"I appreciate that. We all need to tell the Gorge Commission this would be good for the community and for the Gorge area," Spadaro responded.
White Salmon resident Shirley Cox said she was concerned the availability of condos at the site could compete with local Realtors.
"You say you don't want to be competing, but you will have condos available," Cox said.
Spadaro noted, however, that 70 percent of the housing units would be restricted to being available as rentals only, and that the largest residence at the Broughton Landing site would be 1,600 square feet.
"I won't tell you there would be no competition anywhere, but we feel strongly we're not dividing the pie, but growing the pie. That's why Skamania Lodge has endorsed the project," Spadaro said.
Council member Timi Keene said she hoped the project's sponsors would encourage its guests to visit and shop in "Bingen, White Salmon, and Stevenson -- and not Hood River" if the project gained approval.
Spadaro said that was what they wanted to see as well.
"Our goal is to bring people to this side of the river," he said.
"I think it's a very interesting plan, and I think it's worth us supporting," commented council member John Mayo.
The City Council took no action on Spadaro's request at the Dec. 6 meeting, but has scheduled a Dec. 20 vote on whether to offer a letter of support for the Broughton Landing project.