City seeks ways to tighten review process

November 19, 2005

The Hood River City Planning Department is taking a hard look at three major growth issues.

Cindy Walbridge, city planning director wants to review the existing standards for building heights, minimum lot sizes and off-street parking requirements.

While she and staffers are undertaking that task, the processing of development applications will be slowed down. For an indefinite period of time, Walbridge wants to look at new proposals only by appointment. She wants staff to have one week following the submission of plans to notify the landowner whether or not the proposal is accepted for processing.

She said the city often makes decisions within 30-40 days after an application arrives at her desk. But the law grants the city 120 days to complete that process.

“This will allow us to spend more time with each application. And find time to develop some new ordinances,” said Walbridge.

On her immediate review list is completion of guidelines for construction in heritage neighborhoods. She wants to get those standards to the City Council by the end of December.

In addition, Walbridge plans to write more definitive language into the following codes:

* A determination on how big a residential lot size should be – and how much of the property should be covered by a home. Walbridge said many citizens are complaining that the city is losing all of its yards and neighborhoods feel “too dense.”

The current building code allows construction on a 5,000 square foot lot within 10 feet of the rear property line, 5 feet from both sides (not including the overhang for eaves) and between 10-20 feet from the front.

* Increased landscaping standards around the downtown and Heights business districts. In addition, off-street parking is likely to be required for new construction in these areas.

* A more exacting guideline for the height of new developments along hillsides. Walbridge said landowners will likely need a building permit to add large amounts of fill – and a surveyor’s certification of the existing grade.

Walbridge intends to have updated versions of these land-use codes before the city council sometime in the near future.

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