JOHN DAY — A vocal critic of plans to build a new community pool is challenging the validity of a permit for the project.

John Morris, who lives several miles west of John Day, has filed an appeal of a decision by the John Day Planning Commission to approve a conditional use permit for an aquatic center to be built by the John Day-Canyon City Parks and Recreation District at the Seventh Street Sports Complex in John Day.

The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the John Day City Council at 6 p.m. on Jan. 5 in the John Day Fire Hall, 316 S. Canyon Blvd.

Morris was the lone person to speak in opposition to the project at the Planning Commission’s Nov. 9 public hearing. In his appeal, he claims the Planning Commission was biased and prejudicial in its decision to grant the permit because he was not given “the same opportunity to provide and to complete his testimony” as those who spoke in favor of the pool project.

As evidence of that claim, Morris cites the actions of Planning Commission Chair Ken Boethin. Morris notes that Boethin interrupted him at one point and asked if he had any concerns relating to the development code criteria the commission was using to evaluate the permit application for the pool, but did not ask the same question of the 15 people who testified in support of the project.

John Day Mayor Ron Lundbom and City Councilor Shannon Adair were among those who spoke in favor of the proposed aquatic center at the hearing. By expressing support for the project, Morris argues, Lundbom and Adair have prejudiced his right to an unbiased and fair appeal before the City Council.

In addition, Morris argues that the acoustics of the meeting room and the complexity of the development code criteria made it difficult for him to understand what was being said, putting him at a disadvantage.

The proposed aquatic center would replace the old Gleason Pool, located in a city park adjacent to the Kam Wah Chung State Historic Site. That pool, which opened in 1958, has been closed the last two seasons due to COVID-19 concerns and has significant deferred maintenance issues.

The City Council recently approved the sale of Gleason Park, where the pool is located, to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The state is planning a $4.5 million expansion of the Kam Wah Chung Historic Site on the park property.

Plans for the new aquatic center call for a six-lane, 25-yard competitive pool with spectator seating and an 8,000-square-foot structure to house locker rooms, a lobby and office space for parks and recreation staff.

The project has an estimated price tag of $6 million, but the city has already obtained $2 million in state funding for the aquatic center project and is considering up to $1 million more in cash and in-kind contributions for site improvements, including the money from the sale of the Gleason Park property. The city also plans to cover utility costs for the new pool.

The parks and rec district still needs to raise $3 million to $4 million to cover design and construction of the aquatic center. The district plans to put a bond measure on the ballot next year for either the May or the November election.

If voters in John Day and Canyon City (the area covered by the district) approve the bond measure, the new aquatic center could open as soon as the summer of 2023. If voters reject the measure, the pool would not be built.

Editor Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-575-0710 or editor@bmeagle.com.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.