NORTH BEND — A special City Council meeting was held in North Bend on Friday afternoon to determine what should be done with an appeal made by local environmental group Citizens for Renewables, on a permit application made by the Jordan Cove Energy Project.

The council decided to deny Citizens for Renewables' appeal and accept the Planning Commission’s decision to adopt the permit. With council approval of the permit, Citizens for Renewables will be able to make an appeal to the State of Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

Some uncertainty as to whether the group would be able to follow through with its appeal arose a couple of weeks ago when the City of North Bend notified Citizens for Renewables that the cost of the appeal would be anywhere between $5,000 and $35,000. Later the city adjusted the cost estimate to be between $5,000 and $60,000.

“We challenged the cost and told the city that we would not be dropping the appeal, but we would also not be paying those fees,” Jody McCaffrey with Citizens for Renewables said. “We suggested that the City of North Bend adopt the Planning Commission decision instead of having another hearing and charging us between $5,000 and $60,000 … That then would give us a chance to appeal to LUBA.

“The record for this application is so huge, because both Jordan Cove and the citizens group presented mountains of paperwork to the Planning Commission,” North Bend City Administrator Terence O’Connor said.

There were a number of options regarding the appeal that the City Council considered, but the most cost-effective and mutually agreeable was have the appeal presented to LUBA for review. According to McCaffrey, the initial fee to apply for an appeal with LUBA is $400.

The permit is in regard to the placement of dredge spoils from the JECP’s navigation channel project on a piece of property just west of the McCullough Bridge.

Members of Citizens for Renewables are disappointed in the large costs the city has presented to appeal these JCEP land use permits, organizers have said. However, it is the city’s policy that the appellant shoulder the printing costs and the costs of a hearing officer.

The city has never had an appeal that requires costs be paid for thousands of printed pages, as well as the cost of a hearing officer to review those pages. According to O’Connor, the city looked around to see how other cities have handled similar land use appeals, but found no similar cases.

“We don’t wish to increase costs to anybody, nor do we want the citizens of North Bend to have to pay for other people’s fight,” O’Connor said. “In this instance I think it worked out as best as it could, but in reality we have checked around the state and no one has had these kind of land use fights between a foreign company and local environmental groups. This truly is a unique situation.”

There is a second appeal on another JCEP land use application that Citizens for Renewables submitted prior to the one discussed at Friday’s meeting. That appeal is regarding concerns that the group has with horizontal directional drilling.

According to O’Connor, the city did not notify Citizens for Renewable of the potential costs that the first appeal would accrue, and because of that the city decided to pay the cost of printing and the hearings officer. O’Connor said the cost to the city for that appeal was around $27,000.

“That appeal ended up costing the citizens of North Bend $27,000. The difference being that we didn’t notify them that there were going to be costs beyond the appeal application fee. At that juncture we just said that that’s our bad that we did not call to their attention that there would be extraordinary expenses,” O’Connor said.

At the next North Bend City Council work session, the hearings officer will submit his findings to the council, and the council will then decide whether or not to appeal at the next council meeting.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.