Planners hope survey will guide Hood River’s growth

October 8, 2005

The City of Hood River believes that citizens should guide the future growth of their own community.

This week the planning department mailed out a “Keeping Hood River on Track” survey to the city’s 3,280 registered voters. Respondents are asked on the bilingual form to provide their perspectives on 13 areas of concern. They have until mid-November to give their opinion on the biggest issues facing Hood River over the next several years, and what should be changed or preserved.

Cindy Walbridge, city planning director, has also invited citizens to rate their satisfaction level with emergency response and public services. In addition, they can rank their preferences for planning that retains a high quality of life. The informal survey also requests three top growth priorities from 12 available options. These choices range from added open space to more shopping centers and new community facilities.

“We’re changing so rapidly right now that people are really concerned about how quickly the growth is happening and how it’s changing the face of the community,” said Walbridge.

In addition to the survey, the city has scheduled two town hall meetings in November for a community discussion of growth issues.

The first public forum will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, in the library conference room at 502 State Street. The second session will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Hood River Valley Adult Center at 2010 Sterling Place.

Walbridge said the results of the survey and comments from both meetings will be incorporated into a final report.

She expects the updated “Hood River Community Vision” to be ready for review by the end of 2005.

“This will provide us with a direction for changes based on the concerns of our community,” said Walbridge.

To make responding to the survey even easier, the city has posted it on the Web site:

Toni Vakos, planning assistant, researched the questions to incorporate into the form based on similar questionnaires that had been mailed out in other growing cities.

She particularly focused on surveys completed in locations where outdoor recreation was a predominant attraction.

Walbridge and Jennifer Donnelly, senior planner, then ran Vakos’ research by other staffers, members of the planning commission and local residents.

They eventually winnowed the list of potential topics down to one page so that people were only required to spend a few minutes answering the questions.

“This survey is also a little like our report card. It will help us find out how people think that we’re doing,” said Vakos.

Ten years ago the city undertook a similar study and published the results in a long-term vision statement. At that time citizens reiterated that Hood River should remain a city of “unique beauty” and “an incredibly comfortable place to live.”

“In 1995 people were concerned about the growing number of multi-family developments and wanted us to separate uses to retain the character of Hood River,” said Walbridge. “I think that’s basically the same concern that we will hear today.”

She anticipates the response to the latest survey will be much the same.

And the need for affordable housing is likely to once again earn a first-place ranking.

She predicts that residents may also register concerns about the increased number of short-term rentals in their neighborhoods.

“We have been hearing how concerned people are about growth in the county for years now,” said Walbridge. “With some help from the community, we should be able to manage those concerns.”

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