Tuesday, October 28, 2003/lk
The owner of a waterfront business is concerned that passage of Ballot Measure 14-16 could result in a “civil takings” of his private property.
Phil Jensen, president of Luhr Jensen and Sons, Inc., said a sentence near the bottom of the ballot summary has caused him “surprise, shock and dismay.” At issue is the wording, “existing structure and infrastructures would be allowed to remain so long as the existing operations continue.”
“We and our employees have been working to establish something of value and to have it stripped away with no compensation is just unreasonable,” said Jensen.
He said in today’s volatile global marketplace, it is important that independent companies are able to switch product lines as necessary to remain viable. Jensen said he has a responsibility to more than 200 employees to make tough decisions as needed to ensure that they continue to receive a paycheck. He said Luhr Jensen began manufacturing fishing tackle and accessories more than 70 years ago and has been in its present location for about 25 years. According to Phil, the company has invested more than $3 million in the existing building/infrastructure that sits on property leased from the port.
“I think it (language) was poorly thought through from their (Citizens for Responsible Waterfront Development) standpoint and maybe even a last minute suggestion,” said Jensen.
Hood River Port Director Dave Harlan said the public agency is also opposed to the downzoning of its property to preserve the majority of the waterfront as a public park. He said even the threat of ongoing legal challenges is affecting local economic development. For example, Harlan said Home Depot recently broke off negotiations with the port and decided to site in The Dalles which was clearly welcoming.
“It’s apparent to most people that there is a potential takings issue here,” he said.
But Susan Froehlich, one of the sponsors of the ballot measure, said the language that Jensen is concerned about was specifically included to protect his assets. She said the CRWD recognizes the company as a “valuable asset” to the community and believes that it will gain financially from the rezone. However, if Jensen decided to close his operation, she said state and federal grant funds, as well as private donations, could be obtained to negotiate just compensation.
“The CRWD would like to protect both the workers and Mr. Jensen’s rights, as well as the last remaining parcel of waterfront in Hood River. This is not a takings issue, but one of protection — for the waterfront, for future generations of workers, residents and tourists to our fair city,” stated Froelich in a written statement.
Jensen said the measure doesn’t include any provision for compensation and that places his business at risk. For that reason, he has become vocal in his protest against its passage on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. He said Luhr Jensen has made every effort to accommodate public access to the waterfront and has even constructed walkways across its grounds for pedestrian use. In addition, he said the building and grounds are routinely made available for various public and educational activities, including the Columbiana River Fest.
“I wouldn’t stand in the way of anything down here but I believe in the old saying, ’Trust in God but tie up your own camel,” said Jensen. “When people start asking me to give away a building that is really all that we own then it has gone too far.”