Port Commission ponders ‘make or break’ waterfront zoning issues

The Port of Hood River is drafting a “make or break” list about waterfront zoning issues that could adversely affect mixed-use development options.

On Tuesday, the elected body also appointed 12 community members to the new Waterfront Asset Management Technical Advisory Committee. That ad hoc group is charged with moving the project forward and helping to communicate the complexities and challenges to the general public.

The port board has highlighted several areas of possible contention in the Columbia River Waterfront Mixed-Use Zone currently under review by the City of Hood River. They are objecting to the “Wind Shadow Zone” that is defined as the area north of Portway Avenue, east of the Hook and west of the Event Site. The port board was not consulted first about that reference and favors an engineering study to model air flows so that building on the limited land base is not unnecessarily restricted. Although their methodology differs, both port and city officials have stated strong support for protecting westerly air flows to support offshore activities.

Whether the port will insist that the zone be established only through “good science’ is contingent upon the upcoming decision by the city’s Planning Commission. Port officials have agreed that no strong stands on any issue should be taken until the commission has finished its review, which will continue at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the county courthouse.

“There are best practices of mixed-use development out there and we’re looking at those with the belief that whatever is done to the waterfront should mirror those principles,” said Dave Harlan, executive director of the port.

Another area of concern for the port is the request by Hood River Distillers, Inc., that new zoning include a 400-foot buffer around the industrial site. Because the property houses storage tanks and rail cars containing beverage alcohol, the company does not believe the proposed 50-foot buffer, which is the state standard, would be wide enough to protect other users of surrounding properties.

However, Harlan suggested to the port board that if the Distillers perceived enough of a potential hazard to require such a wide buffer, it might be a good idea to consult with the state fire marshal and initiate further discussions.

At the Oct. 7 meeting, Harlan also expressed “surprise” that the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association had spoken out in favor of preserving the waterfront for a large park. He said that action was taken without any discussion between the group and the port. He said that stand was unexpected since the port had spent years working in partnership with the CGWA to make improvements on their behalf.

A total of 22 applications were received by community members interested in serving on WAMTAC.

Harlan said the following individuals were chosen because of their experience in business, land-use, tourism and/or recreation: Kathie Allie, Mike Benedict, Bill Fashing, Steve Gates, John Gerstenberger, Tom McCullough, Dick Nafsinger, Carl Perron, Scott Reynier, Chris Trader, Tom Stevenson and Ken Woodrich.

In addition, the following three alternates were chosen to fill any unexpected vacancies: Jon Davies, Richard Lee and Linda Maddox.

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