City picks up parking on Monday

Parking is bound to be the hot topic on Monday at Hood River City Council.

The elected officials will continue their discussion from last month on a range of parking issues and factors. Formally, the council has been asked by Key Development of Hood River to make a significant change to city policy in what it charges developers for what is known as “in-lieu fee”: Key Development President Jeff Pickhardt asked that the city reduce from $18,000 to $100 per housing unit for on-street parking impacts. The in-lieu fee was established in 2006 as a way to discourage overdevelopment of downtown as well as raise funds for a proposed downtown parking structure; the fund has $55 in it, as the revenue has been annually reallocated by the city.

City Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall, Second and State streets.

Key Development is planning to submit a mixed commercial/residential building on State Street at Fourth Street, in what is currently the parking lot of the Paris Fair Building, which Key Development owns. Pickhardt told council last month he wants a decision as soon as possible so the project can move forward; delaying it would likely mean Key would turn to a purely commercial use of the project, which he said would have even greater impact on on-street parking.

The proposed development would include 70 to 75 residential units, which Pickhardt argues “the city sorely needs” as evidenced by the 2015 Housing Needs Analysis.

The Key Development proposal drew ample fire at the last council meeting, Aug. 28, and a group of downtown Hood River businesses have written a public letter (see Our Readers Write, page A4 in this edition) calling on residents to weigh in on the topic.

Those attending Monday’s meeting should expect a wide-ranging discussion on issues such as changing other parking regulations and fees and identifying Urban Renewal District funds for use in building parking structures.

Andrew McElderry of Hood River Cinemas/Skylight Theater called the Key Development plan “quite an insult to the intelligence of the community,” and urged the council to “take into account present parking issues.” He noted that it is not a public developer asking for the parking fee reduction but a for-profit company.

The Key Development proposal also asks that the city only require Key Development to build one parking stall per unit, instead of the current 1.5 requirement.

“Our market research and experience tells us roughly one stall per unit is the right number for this development,” Pickhardt wrote in his letter to the city. “More parking would raise costs unnecessarily, effectively raising rents beyond what the market would support.” Key Development “would offer our tenants convenient alternatives like bike storage, e-bikes for local errands and shared vehicles like Zip-cars.”

But opponents aired skepticism that the building tenants would limit themselves to a single vehicle and use alternatives, and noted that the plan would displace the 35 spaces currently using the lot.

Janice Bell of the downtown shop Arome said common practice supports the likelihood that many tenants will have two cars. “It’s idealistic to expect a car-less system,” Bell said.

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