Watchdog group opposes 'big boxes'

A grassroots effort has formed to prevent "big box" stores from being sited just outside the city limits.

More than 60 members of Citizens for Responsible Growth crowded into the Hood River County Commission meeting on Nov. 5. They called on the board to follow the city's lead and adopt a 50,000 square foot size limitation on commercial structures within the urban growth area as quickly as possible.

That request followed on the heels of last week's pre-application meeting between Wal-Mart representatives and Hood River service agencies. Earlier this month, the national chain store submitted preliminary sketches for a 185,000 square foot retail outlet on a little more than 16 acres of commercial property at the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads.

However, Judie Hanel, spokesperson for the growth watchdog group, said the push to limit building sizes wasn't directed against Wal-Mart specifically, it was "anti-sprawl" to protect the area's economy, air, water and land resources.

"We believe growth will happen," said Hanel. "Only by preparing for it can we ensure that growth supports compatible development, diversification and family-wage job creation."

She said the city had forwarded its new commercial code to the county on Oct. 11, and, under the agreement made between both governmental bodies in 1997, the county had to consider a compatible plan within 180 days. But several members of the citizen group told commissioners that time was of the essence to speed up that process since Wal-Mart had not yet submitted a formal building application so did not have "grandfathered" rights to build a super-center.

However Mike Benedict, county planning director, said state time guidelines for hearings had been set up to prevent land-use ordinances from being "railroaded" through the system. For example, he said once the county notified the state of the proposed code sometime this week there would be an initial 45-day waiting period just to gather public comment. Then he said the scheduled review would be subject to other local and state notification periods which couldn't be circumvented. He said the same time constraints would be required to set a moratorium on building sizes until the new code had been adopted.

Benedict said that since the Wal-Mart store would be sited on land already zoned for commercial use, the business wouldn't ordinarily be required to go through the permit process which was open to public comment. However, because of the controversial nature of the pending application, Benedict said he had exercised his discretionary authority to have the proposed use formally reviewed by the planning commission. He said that quasi-judicial body was bound to follow applicable law on consideration of development applications.

Benedict said public comment was currently being accepted on Wal-Mart's draft plan and as finalized development reports -- including a requested wetland inventory and traffic engineering studies -- became available they would be available for review at his courthouse office or could be copied for 25 cents a page.

Hanel said the Citizens for Responsible Growth recently organized to support the city's "responsible and pro-active" approach to development. The group is accepting donations to defray operating and possible legal costs at P.O. Box 22, Hood River, 97031. For more information, Hanel invites residents to call her at 386-6221 or Maui Meyer at 490-3051.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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