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Workforce housing meeting is Tuesday

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

March 14, 2007

The Hood River County Commission is inviting neighbors to help shape a proposed workforce housing project on State Street.

The elected body will listen to public concerns from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday. The forum takes place in the first floor conference room at the county administration building, 601 State St.

Winkler Development, selected to design a housing plan, will have representatives present that evening. The Portland-based firm has been asked to note the submitted comments and incorporate them into the preliminary design.

“I want people to be part of a process that is transparent and open. This is an opportunity to work with us,” said Commission Chair Ron Rivers.

Last year, the county board began to explore the option of converting part of the lot across from the administration building into housing. The focus of the elected body fell on that site because it was already zoned to accommodate the project. And, since the land was under county ownership, the construction costs would be lower than if property had to be purchased.

Unknown at this time is whether up to 41 condominiums could be built on the northern section of the 50,000-square-foot lot, or if special tax breaks would be sought by dedicating a portion of the land to low income apartments. The county has also not decided whether it would sell or lease the lot to a developer.

Rivers said the decision was made to investigate the possibility of a workforce housing development in its parking lot to meet a local need. Officials are worried that school teachers, restaurant workers, secretaries and a variety of other service providers can no longer afford the high cost of housing in Hood River. Civic leaders believe that some of the community’s cultural diversity will be lost if workers have to live in another location and commute to the job.

The Downtown Hood River Neighborhood Association has voiced opposition to the conversion of the lot on several fronts. The group of concerned residents believes that parking is at a premium in the downtown blocks so the number of available spaces should not be reduced.

In addition, DHRNA contends the proposal for high-density development is not a good fit with nearby single family homes. Especially since there will be no yards or common green space for children to play — so they are likely to be in driveways and out on sidewalks.

In other arguments, the group said the property, which is zoned for commercial use, should be developed as office space — if at all — as its “highest and best use.”

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