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Citizens give nod to code changes

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

July 22, 2006

The Hood River City Planning Commission took the first steps Wednesday to alleviate a growing citizen concern that new houses are “too tall, too big and too close.”

About 25 community members attended the hearing — and no one disagreed with the following four concepts:

* Limit the area of a lot that a single-family residence can cover to 40 percent, or 43 percent with a front porch and 48 percent with a rear garage.

* Allow landowners to build an accessory dwelling of no more than 800 square feet. The secondary unit could be used as a long-term rental to create more worker housing. Or provide private quarters for an aging or needy family member.

* Screen parking from public view in front of bed and breakfast establishments by requiring cars to be placed to the rear or side of the building.

* Provide neighbors with more of a voice about townhouse developments by allowing these structures only with a conditional use permit.

“I think this really sets the stage for what the public wants in the city. These are going to be some really substantive changes that protect our quality of life for the long run,” said resident Jurgen Hess.

Other community members echoed his positive comments. Only developer Brian Watts expressed concern about adding driveways, even from permeable materials, into the equation for lot coverage.

“This might have unintended consequences by not leaving enough room to put garages to the rear of the house — or to add an accessory dwelling,” he said.

After deliberating, the commission conceded that his concerns might have validity. So, they upped the credit given for the length of a driveway constructed of grasscrete, a free-draining paver, from 50 percent to 75 percent. Other permeable driveway materials would receive the 50 percent credit.

Watts is investigating whether that change will be enough to accommodate the typical building project. He intends to report back to Cindy Walbridge, planning director, if including driveways in lot coverage will result in more garages being built to the front of the home to create more lot room.

What’s Next

Zoning changes: The planning commission recommendations will be brought to the city council for review on Monday.

When and where: A public hearing is scheduled on the four proposed changes in the zoning code for 6 p.m. in the municipal courtroom.

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