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HR Port will deed park land to city

News staff writer

May 7, 2005

The Port of Hood River has certified its decision to hand over 6.4 acres of premium waterfront land to citizens for a public park.

On Friday, the port commissioners held a special meeting to sign an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the City of Hood River. Within weeks the deed to the property valued at $1.4 million will be transferred to the city.

A seven-member Park Development Committee (PDC), appointed by the port and city, will now guide both the design and financing processes for the park, according to a Port of Hood River press release. The new IGA outlines how the property commonly known as Lot 6 will be developed. The text includes a listing of the amenities that will be constructed, including restrooms, a children’s play area, group picnic facilities and landscaping. The value of the property will be used by the PDC to match state and federal grants that will help fund the community recreational area.

Under the port’s new master planning process, area residents and visitors will get to enjoy a new park that will also help the county get an economic boost.

Officials hope that the new demand for light industrial space at the waterfront will bring in more family-wage job opportunities. They believe an attractive park will help attract new firms to help overcome the area’s high unemployment rate. By retaining zoning that accommodates a business park, the port is hoping to stop local companies from relocating for expansion needs.

The port’s new direction is based, in part, on the looming relocation of Homeshield, which will move from the waterfront to The Dalles later this year. The company could not find affordable “shovel ready” lands within the county and the port wants to prevent a reoccurrence of that scenario.

“We listened to the community, and the community told us it was concerned about a mixed-use zone that would allow residential development on the waterfront,” said Commission President Sherry Bohn. “The port never planned on major residential development — our mission is job creation and we’ve always focused on business development. Sticking with the light industrial zoning should send the clear signal that the port is in business to support business.”

Signing the IGA effectively marked an end to Ordinance 1851, which would have created a waterfront mixed-use zone. Bohn said the port will work to follow many of the ordinance’s standards that restrict building heights, create pedestrian walkways, protect riparian areas and maintain view corridors.

She noted that light industrial activities are no longer limited to heavy manufacturing. More and more, these zones are used to support technology-related companies. Bohn said a prime example of this trend is Renaissance Learning, formerly known as Humanities Software, which will move into the port’s Wasco Business Park this summer.

In upcoming months, the port will design a conceptual waterfront master plan rooted in light industrial zoning. That plan may identify properties at the waterfront that would be better suited for other zoning, such as commercial that allows some retail activity. However, the port expects to focus on retaining light industrial properties for potential business park development.

The port’s emphasis on light industrial land echoes efforts by Hood River County Commission Chair Rodger Schock to strengthen the area’s business base. Schock has undertaken that drive after learning that more than 2,000 people have applied for about 135 positions at Cardinal IG since its opening in early 2004.

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For more information regarding the IGA, light industrial property and waterfront development, call the port office at 386-1645 or visit www.portofhoodriver.com.

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