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Top-end Soil

Up-scale homes strive for balance between community and privacy

October 5, 2005

Although the demand for affordable housing has become the talk of Hood River – the market for upper-end homes is also growing.

Developer Randy Olmstead has come up with a “vision” for an unusual subdivision to meet that need. He is working with Mountain View Ranch, LLC, to create a rustic neighborhood that fosters an urban sense of community.

“What we saw was a beautiful piece of property that is in the heart of the Gorge and could provide the perfect setting for the kinds of homes that are lacking anywhere else,” said Olmstead. “We knew the demand was there, we already had a waiting list of 10-15 people for this type of development.”

So, he has not been surprised at the quick turnaround on 10 lots carved out of the 32-acre property at the western end of Methodist Road. Within one month of going on the market, six of the 2-5-acre parcels that make up the Estates at Mountain View Ranch have sales pending – at prices which range from $295,000 to $410,000, for just the land.

“It’s really going to be the only development of its kind in Hood River and its been very well received,” said Michael Frost, a broker at Windemere Realty.

Olmstead said the spectacular views of both Mount Adams and Mount Hood make the setting the perfect foil for houses that will build for $850,000 and up.

“We wanted this land to be used for its highest and best use. To do anything less than that would almost devalued it,” he said.

The price might be high to live on one of the estates, but so are the expectations. All landowners agree to abide by a very detailed set of architectural and landscape guidelines to safeguard the aesethics and liveability of the neighborhood.

For example, each home design must address the special needs of its respective environment. Building plans are subjected to a comprehensive architectural review process that factors in the site’s natural characteristics.

“We started out looking at this from a landscaping viewpoint and then worked backwards from there. We don’t just take a checkboard approach to this development. We first look at the lot layout and how it fits with the natural features,” said Olmstead.

A special committee must approve all plans for structures that Olmstead said will begin at 2,500 square feet. Although landowners are purchasing a larger lot, they are only allowed one-half of an acre for their own private use.

The remainder of their property is viewed as a “transition zone” to open space and strategically landscaped by a homeowner association from an approved list of trees and shrubs. The entrance to the “meadow setting” of the exclusive community will feature a waterfall and a pond. About two miles of walking path/biking path will circle the fenced perimeter.

“Mountain View Ranch will be an extremely desirable place to live, recreate and visit. It will be a unique enclave that supports a relaxed and gracious lifestyle. The natural beauty of the rural setting will be preserved and will be enhanced with the development of water features, wetlands and landscaping and the addition of comfortable authentic classic Cascadian Mountain homes,” reads the vision statement prepared by the Oregon limited liability corporation.

“Each home will convey an understated elegance; well thought out, timeless, consistent design; and an identifiable architectural vernaculer. High quality materials will be used throughout. The community will age well and maintain its continuity through the years,” concludes the text.

Frost said a number of houses valued at $500,000 or more have cropped up throughout the Hood River Valley in recent years. However, Mountain View will be the first development that caters to wealthier citizens. Olmstead the property is already surrounded by upper-end homes so it was only fitting that the subdivision match the investment by neighbors.

“The whole intent behind this project was to create a situation where someone could protect their view and protect their values,” he said.

Frost said the estate has attracted a lot of attention from people who don’t want to live on a small lot in town. But also don’t want to settle into a residence that is next to a farming operation.

Olmstead said the final short platting process for the property within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is almost completed. He anticipates that construction could begin on the first estates within the next eight weeks.

He said Hood River County and the Columbia River Gorge Commission have both provided guidance that has helped bring his vision to reality in a timely fashion. Olmstead said the assistance of Harper Houf Peterson Righellis, Inc., of Hood River has also been essential to working out engineering challenges associated with the topography.

Olmstead said the project also benefits the Hood River community at large. In order to develop the property, Mountain View had to build a long stretch of public roadway and pay for water line upgrades.

Because most of the easy-to-develop lots in or near the city of Hood River have already been sold, Olmstead expects the remaining land to bring more construction challenges. And that, he said, is going to bring a higher sale price to any available property.

However, he doesn’t know of any other site that is as suited as Mountain View for upscale homes.

“This is not your basic neighborhood, it will have unique and classic styles of homes that fit well into their environment,” he said. “We are creating a sense of community that is protected and private.”

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