CGCC could piggyback on Wal-Mart

Officials look into new land use possibilities for community college and Wal-Mart

The Columbia Gorge Community College may be looking to piggyback on Wal-Mart plans for development at the western edge of Hood River.

Bob Cole, CGCC director of Resource Development, said the 28 acre property adjacent to the proposed site of a new Wal-Mart supercenter is under consideration for a satellite campus. However, he admits the college would find it difficult to build on the parcel owned by Ladd Henderson without Wal-Mart absorbing the major costs for infrastructure.

“We are not talking to anyone officially, we are on a mission to inquire and identify all the options we have available,” said Cole.

Wal-Mart is seeking to place a 185,000-square foot “super store” at the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads but has encountered a major roadblock. Last month, the Oregon Department of Transportation vetoed its traffic plan to move the existing Country Club Road intersection with West Cascade Avenue about 300 feet to the east.

Henderson has also initiated discussions with Wal-Mart to overcome the obstacle that could also prevent construction of a local campus in that vicinity. He is interested in selling the national retailer the easement it needs for an access that stands a better chance of gaining ODOT approval.

“I contacted Wal-Mart because I think it’s about time somebody becomes a little proactive here and I’m hoping the county will see this as an existing problem and take an active role in solving it,” said Henderson.

The future of both projects could hinge, in part, on the possibility of Wal-Mart relocating Country Club onto a public right of way from an old subdivision plat that runs along the current Stonehedge Gardens Restaurant driveway. That site would put the traffic light between 400-500 feet farther east than Wal-Mart’s current proposal and would dovetail with city plans to eventually construct a street at that location which would be linked with Fairview Drive.

ODOT officials contend the current proposed placement of the signal is “flawed” because of the potential for traffic backup since the stoplight would be located too near the Exit 62 freeway off-ramp. Because Cascade Avenue is part of the Historic Columbia River Highway, ODOT officials also registered concerns because the reconstruction was inconsistent with the city’s transportation plan and design changes would fail to preserve the roadway’s character.

Cole said wherever the Hood River campus is located it will also likely house branch offices of the Mid-Columbia Council of Governments and the Oregon State Employment Department. In spite of state budget woes, Cole said the college is seeking to fulfill its promise to provide more local classes.

“No matter what, this college is committed to providing educational services in Hood River,” said Cole.

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