A lot of questions are being asked about the westside planning process which is currently underway. I think it is important for everyone to understand what is going on; this is an important discussion about the future of our city.
If you look at a map of Hood River, you’ll see the majority of undeveloped parcels are on the westside. The owners of this property have a right to develop it, and it’s only reasonable to assume they will. Whether we plan for it or not, there will be more houses, more cars, and more people, especially in the areas which haven’t yet been developed.
The westside planning process is an attempt to put a plan in place ahead of this development by asking basic planning questions: Where will the roads go to handle the increased traffic? Where might bike paths and parks fit? How will busses and kids on foot get to a new school when it is eventually built? This is the sort of planning a city should be doing. This is how we make sure our newest neighborhoods will be the vibrant places people will want to call “home.”
Much of the publicly voiced concerns focuses on a single aspect of the planning: proposals to increase the density of development. Math, economics and Oregon’s land use laws make it clear Hood River will continue to grow within its current boundaries for some time. The future will be denser than it is today, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up the essential character of Hood River. We can’t stop growth, but with thoughtful planning, we get to decide how our community grows.
The westside planning committees are suggesting alternatives, but their recommendations do not automatically become law. Any changes to the city’s current Comprehensive Plan, zoning code, and zoning map will go through a deliberative process at the city’s planning commission and city council. Public discussion and debate are critical as we figure out what we want to westside and the entire city to look like in 20 years.
The public testimony before the planning commission will begin this summer. This is an excellent time to participate in planning our future by showing up at public hearings to listen and to speak, or by talking to a member of the planning commission or city council. Ask questions and share your insights. Thoughtful input from people across the community will make sure Hood River stays the special place that it is.