Photo by Ben Mitchell
Morrison Park is currently being looked at as a site for an affordable housing development.
As of Thursday, September 22, 2016
Morrison Park has been the site of Hood River’s disc golf course for over a decade, but in the coming years, it may have a different use: affordable housing.
The City of Hood River has submitted an application to the Hood River Planning Commission to rezone the park, located at the northwest corner of Wasco and 20th/Jaymar streets, from Open/Space Public Facilities (OS/PF) to Urban High Density Residential (R-3). City officials are currently working with the Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation (CCHC), a nonprofit affordable housing agency, on the development.
The 5.33-acre parcel is owned by the city and has been looked at off and on for years as a potential site for affordable housing. Joel Madsen, executive director for CCHC, reported that the city has long identified affordable housing as a priority for the city, but does not have “enough adequately zoned properties for multi-family dwellings,” nor enough buildable land for that purpose.
“I see us as helping to carry out a strategy that the city has identified as a priority to have the city better positioned to meet the housing needs of present and future residents… I personally think this is the best solution we’ve looked at for developing affordable housing in the city at this point,” he said.
Others are less enthused about the proposal. A sign has been erected outside the park’s information kiosk, that reads: “SAVE THIS PARK from development — SAY NO to R-3!” Attached is a copy of the city’s public notice of the rezone. Tracy Hollister, an adjacent property owner, voiced his displeasure in a letter to the News, stating: “Affordable housing needs solutions, but killing parks is not the answer.”
Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District (HRVPRD) Director Lori Stirn also wasn’t pleased about the prospect, but wasn’t surprised either. She noted that when the city and HRVPRD signed an intergovernmental agreement in March 2005 for the development of the park, it was always with the understanding that the use of the parcel could change at some point. The agreement states that HRVPRD can use the area as a park “…until such time as the City determines that the Park property should be used for other purposes...” The city is required to give HRVPRD at least 90 days’ written notice before terminating the agreement.
“It will be sad to lose park land… but it is city property,” Stirn noted.
CCHC hasn’t drawn up specific plans about the size or shape of the development, although Madsen mentioned that a concept created by University of Oregon architecture students in 2008 during a meeting with stakeholders suggested a range of 50-80 units. He added that if the rezone is approved, “then we start investing our dollars in more predevelopment activities that include architectural surveys, soil samples, things like that.”
Madsen acknowledged that it’s not an ideal situation to turn a public park into affordable housing, but noted the location at 20th and Wasco makes a lot of sense for the development due to its proximity to the Rotary Skate Park, the Park and Ride, as well as local shopping centers.
“I think that while there are definitely concerns… I think it’s definitely a smart location for the community-based housing that we do,” he said.
The planning commission will hold a public hearing on the rezone Monday, Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, where the commission will make a recommendation on the zoning change. The Hood River City Council will then hold a public hearing, tentatively scheduled for Monday, Oct. 24 to consider the planning commission’s recommendation, although Planning Director Cindy Walbridge noted that the city council hearing may get pushed back if the planning commission receives an abundance of testimony, forcing a continuation. Written and oral testimony will be accepted at both meetings, although if interested parties want their testimony to be included in the staff report submitted to the planning commission, those materials must be submitted prior to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7. Testimony can be delivered to City Hall (211 Second St.) or emailed to cindy@cityof hoodriver.com.