Planning commission debates waterfront residential restrictions

The Hood River planning commission will need at least another meeting before deciding how any future residential development in commercial (C2) zones on the waterfront should be regulated.

At a two-and-a-half hour work session on Monday, the commission debated the merits of various proposals brought forward by planning commissioners.

About the only thing that was clear in the range of plans presented was that the commission has no appetite for eliminating residential outright on the waterfront.

Commission chair Laurie Stephens said, “We’ve been wrestling with this a little bit since the planning commission decided two weeks ago decided not to accept staff’s recommendation to completely eliminate residential but instead came to a general consensus to evaluate options for mixed use.”

Deciding just what balance of mixed use should be on the waterfront appears to be the stickiest issue.

By the end of the meeting several different proposals had been laid out.

“I think mixed use is fine, I think we can come up with something that protects commerce lands for what they are and if someone has a reason to want to put some residences down there to make their project pencil out II think we can find a way to do it,” Nathan DeVol said.

DeVol proposed a plan based on frontage – that as long as commercial development fronted the street, residential could be included.

“Why frontage I think works is that I would prefer to see commercial doors along that strip,” he said, adding that residential units could be above or behind the commercial strip in the front.

Stephen Winkle recommended mandating that the bottom floor (or entire building for a one story building) be commercial, but that above the ground floor residential units could be allowed.

Bill Irving recommended that a minimum level of space in each lot be devoted to commercial development and anything else, whether it be in an adjoining building or above the commercial area, could be residential.

Stephens pushed for a similar idea, of setting a minimum amount of commercial space with bonus residential spaces allowed beyond that.

Irving expressed some discomfort with the idea of encouraging developers to use the entire amount of allotted vertical space – which can be up to 45 feet on the waterfront.

“If we encourage 45 foot buildings down there, some people are going to hate us,” he said.

The planning commission will come back in two weeks to further hash out the proposals based on the idea that commercial should be the primary development and a certain percentage of commercial development would need to be reached before allowing residential, and that residential units must meet a certain density.

Any planning commission recommendation would be subject to city council review and approval.

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