Citizen group rises to oppose Westside plan

A new citizen group has formed to oppose the proposed City of Hood River’s Westside Concept Plan.

“For most Hood River citizens, our city is a place where everyone is safe and boasts an exceptional quality of life. Our many ‘Best Places to Live’ awards remind us of that,” said Citizens for Responsible Development spokeswoman Kristi Chapman.

“The proposed Westside Area Concept plan (WAC) puts this at risk. It will significantly change Hood River and our surrounding communities, and severely challenge our already strained and underfunded infrastructure — and few citizens even know about it,” she said.

The next meeting of the Westside Area Concept Advisory Committee will be June 28. The Project Advisory Committee will meet from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall (211 2nd St.). CORD members will be present, and could potentially present a petition they are conducting online regarding WAC.

The petition is hosted at the community action website, under “do not allow Westside rezoning” and so far has 464 of the goal of 500 signatures (details on page A8).

CORD formed three weeks ago under the belief that the city is moving too fast with WAC and that public awareness of the project is insufficient.

Assertions by the group, or disputes it has with the city, include the following:

•No up-zoning is needed. “The City's own study shows that our current plan is just fine for the next 20 years. The current zoning allows for 1,133 new housing units,” Chapman said.

• The city wants to increase that to 1,831 new housing units, decrease lot size and increase potential density.

• There are currently 535 housing units in the proposed area.

• The WAC plan gives suggestions for parks, schools, trails, and roads. None of these items are a requirement with this plan. “Our overcrowded medical facilities are not even mentioned. Funding for these items is not addressed. The only item the City will vote on is implementing a rezoning to higher-density homes,” Chapman stated

• There is no guarantee of entry-level housing.

• Smaller homes and lots are very attractive to investors and second home purchasers.

• Parks and Recreation receives 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed value of our homes in taxes, while places like Bend and Tualatin pay closer to $1.50. “Currently, Hood River is facing severe challenges to upkeep our current parks,” Chapman said.

• The Housing Needs Analysis Traffic Study “shows we currently have a traffic flow issue and the ‘recommended’ plan also lacks a guaranteed traffic solution,” Chapman said.

“To prepare for growth we should be looking at funding our infrastructure: schools, parks, connected neighborhood roads and trails,” she said.

Plan Process

Prior to the Project Advisory Committee meeting on June 28, the project Technical Advisory Committee will meet from 3-5 p.m., to discuss infrastructure funding as well as some draft comprehensive plan and code amendments. The public sessions are at City Hall.

The year-long process lays out changes to city policy and zoning to meet the city’s top priority need, affordable housing, identified by council three years ago, along with where new roads and parks and other infrastructure would go.

The concept plan includes changes to zoning to address workforce and affordable housing needs, and identifies the range of land uses by type, density and mix of residential development, capacity for a range of housing types, potential development of parks, opportunities for mixed use development (commercial and residential in close proximity), commercial land needed to provide services, and commercial and industrial development.

Senior planner Kevin Liburdy said a final recommended concept plan should go before the advisory committee on June 28. However, the city recently submitted a request for additional grant funding and announced two weeks ago it is hoping to add one more round of advisory committee meetings in July or early August.

After the final recommended plan is delivered, it is likely the city will initiate one or more planning commission work sessions to map out a process to move forward. Public hearings will be held by the city planning commission and city council prior to adoption of any component of the concept plan.

CORD Petition

The CORD-sponsored petition at states, in part:

“The Hood River city council and planning department are currently researching the possibility to rezone (or up-zone) the Westside of Hood River, and possibly beyond, to allow for higher density housing to be built above what is currently planned.

“The target area includes approximately 450 acres within Hood River city and county and consists of 577 lots/parcels including developed neighborhoods, vacant and partially vacant lands from Rand to Frankton, Cascade to Belmont and beyond. There currently is no public vote slated. The plan approval will be decided upon by only 14 people: the Planning Commission and the City Council members.

“There is currently a 20-year zoning plan in place that allows for growth within the boundary area already at a 2 percent per year increase which historically is how the population has grown.

“The recent Housing Needs Analysis does not say that we have inadequate land for needed housing under the present zoning. It says we have just enough, without any change in zoning, across all income levels.

“Under current Oregon law, a small city under 25,000 population would not be required to up-zone even if a shortage of needed land had been found, which it has not.

“Changing the existing zoning potentially could create 1,184 additional homes over what is already planned. This will drastically change the look and feel of the entire Westside, and will affect all of Hood River's infrastructure.

“The new plan could potentially add an additional 5,978 residents and 5,399 cars over what the existing plan is allocating for.

“This plan does not define what "affordable housing" is, nor how they plan to achieve it.

“There is no guarantee of parks — it is just a concept of which the elements may or may not happen or be maintained.”

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