SDS Lumber Co. President Jason Spadaro visited the Bingen City Council on Oct. 17, seeking a show of support from the council for plans to redevelop the former Broughton Lumber Co. mill site.
Spadaro is a member of a team proposing to build a resort development at the site that would cater to outdoor recreationalists.
The overall concept calls for transformation of the old Broughton mill site into a resort with "245 new vacation homes, recreational amenities, and retail areas to serve resort guests, locals, and visitors." The accommodations would be available for ownership or on a rental basis.
Spadaro said about 70 percent of the housing units would be put into a rental pool to promote and enhance tourism.
"We didn't want to create a new city or urban area where one didn't exist before," Spadaro explained. "The rentals take care of that. There will be 175 units in the rental pool."
According to information on the Broughton Landing Web site -- at www.broughtonlanding.com -- the area offers a unique opportunity: "Nowhere in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area does the opportunity exist to convert a derelict eyesore into an attractive Mecca for outdoor recreation," reads one section.
The site is in Skamania County, just west of Underwood at Hood, across from the Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery.
"We've worked on this for the last 12 months," Spadaro told Bingen's council members. "We've been trying to find out what the concerns are. We've had multiple meetings to figure out what are the standards we have to meet in scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational guidelines to enhance and benefit and certainly not detract from the Scenic Area."
Spadaro said there is a consensus that the 260-acre former mill site has great potential to be an asset for the Scenic Area and should be developed.
"Into what, that's where the balancing act comes in," Spadaro said. "We have specifically tailored our plan not to compete with existing businesses. The goal is to bring people in and have them go out to shop or to dinner in Stevenson, Bingen, White Salmon, etc."
Spadaro passed out an artist's sketch of what the project might look like, and pointed out that the concept had been reworked many times to address concerns that have come up in meetings with various stakeholders.
"What you see is Alternative 14 -- the final alternative, I hope," he said. "We've compromised in so many ways, but we need a certain size and scale to get the project to pencil. We're sticking firm on this alternative."
Spadaro said the project's proponents are about to start the plan amendment application process through the Columbia River Gorge Commission (CRGC), and that is why he was seeking a statement of support for the project from the Bingen City Council.
Spadaro noted that the project already has letters of support from several entities, including Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Community Trade & Economic Development, the Klickitat County Commissioners, Skamania County Commissioners, and the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce. Other resorts in the area, including Skamania Lodge and Bonneville Hot Springs Resort, also offered letters backing the Broughton proposal.
"We want to show a very broad and strong coalition of support before we go into the process," Spadaro said.
The CRGC's plan amendment application process is expected to take between six and eight months to complete.
Members of the Bingen City Council were supportive.
"A resort development on that location is a desirable thing," said Mayor Brian Prigel. "One concern is it would be like creating a new city, but this plan is modified considerably from the earlier plan. They've also minimized large-scale commercial impact. They've taken input and tried to meet our concerns, which this new plan does."
"The concerns I've had have been addressed, from what I've seen," said council member Laura Mann.
"I like the plan," added councilor Terry Trantow.
Council member Tim Hearn asked whether there was any way to save the historic wigwam burner at the site.
"We plan to keep that burner," Spadaro responded. "We'll keep that and have a museum on the property and interpret the history of Broughton Lumber, and display some of the sections of the flume there too."
Spadaro said the development would employ 60 full-time workers after completion. He estimated that the first phase of construction for the project would take about three to five years once the Columbia River Gorge Commission and Skamania County officials give final approval.
Spadaro said the Broughton proposal would be submitted to the Columbia River Gorge Commission within the next one to two weeks.
The council members voted 4-0 to send a letter of support for the Broughton project.