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Planning commission recommends hotel rule change in divided vote

After a torturous voting session Thursday, Oct. 8, members of the North Bend Planning Commission approved an amendment to city regulations allowing hotels south of Interstate 90.

The amended rules, which will now go before the North Bend City Council for final approval, could lay the groundwork for a proposed hotel by North Bend businessman George Wyrsch in the Interchange Mixed Use zone near the Forster Woods residential area.

Thursday's final call to question followed about five other votes on various resolutions on the issue. At times during the evening, planning commissioners struggled to clarify exactly what they were voting for.

Planning commissioner Jena Gilman put an early resolution on the floor, seconded by Charles Zeder, accepting the stringent new performance standards in the amendment but denying a hotel south of I-90.

"George is a great guy, but he really has a bad idea," said Gilman, who questioned city planning director Gina Estep on whether the new standards fully addressed Forster Woods residents' concerns.

"If you went out and asked those folks in Forster Woods who submitted comments whether your performance standards addressed their comments, I bet they would say no," she said.

North Bend planning staff told the commissioners that accepting the standards would mean allowing hotels south of I-90.

Commissioner Jim Luckey voted to approve the standards, but told fellow planners that he is "still on a gray mark" with regard to their details. He voiced lingering questions.

"I came into the room listening, not making up my mind on the hotel," Luckey said. "I don't know the design standards, and we just voted to say 'apply them to this piece of dirt."

"I want to be absolutely clear," said commissioner Rob McFarland, who moved to apply the standards. "The ultimate question comes down to: is this commission wanting to make a recommendation to council to allow a hotel south of the freeway in the IMU?"

The final vote was 4-3 in favor of the standards. Sherwood Korssjoen, Luckey, McFarland and Frankie Westlake voted to approve the change. Gilman, Zeder and Scott Laufer opposed it.

"Is this final?" asked Zeder

"This is your recommendation," Estep said.

"That's it then," said Tom Meagher, North Bend planning technician and clerk of the meeting.

"Well, not quite," Zeder said. "I hereby resign. We are alienating over 2,000 people south of the freeway, for a buck"

"Thank you and goodbye," Zeder said, as he rose from his chair and left the room. "Nothing personal."

Quiet for a moment, the commissioners considered adjourning for the evening, then stopped to briefly discuss other business for the evening.

The city has received 108 comments on the rule change — more than the city has received on any single issue in the past four years.

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