City denies condo plan

The Hood River City Council unanimously shot down "massive" development plans on Nov. 26 in a Sherman Avenue neighborhood.

At issue was the Nov. 1 approval by the city planning commission to allow a 43-foot high condominium complex to be built in front of single-family residences. The project was proposed by owner/developers Jeff Dulcich and Alan Blanchard, both of Portland, on 2.5 acres of commercial property above the Cascade Commons shopping center.

That approval was challenged by four families, who had paid the $750 appeal fee to safeguard their privacy and hillside view of Mt. Adams and the Columbia River.

"This neighborhood is going to be significantly impacted financially and I think a homeowner has a right to have their investment protected," said Councilor Linda Rouches, who was joined in that argument by Councilor Andrea Klaas.

"The homes along Sherman Avenue are definitely some of the most desirable properties in Hood River right now and it would have a significant financial impact to have their view blocked," said Klaas.

During the appeal hearing a question was also raised about the methodology for the planning commission vote. When the six-member quasi-judicial body voted 3-3 on the development, city attorney Alexandra Sosnkowski advised chairman Tim Mixon that, according to Roberts Rules of Order, his affirmative vote then broke the tie in favor of the project.

However, Councilor Chuck Haynie disagreed with that interpretation, arguing that it was a violation of parliamentary procedure to allow the chairman to essentially vote twice.

"If the chair has already voted, he cannot do so again so it makes this decision moot," said Haynie.

"I think you can read it both ways," said Sosnkowski.

The appellants had asked for a review of the vote which they said was crucial since Paul Randall, an alternate planning commissioner, had voted in favor of the condominiums even though he was only present for the November continued hearing, which centered mainly on developer rebuttal, and had not heard opponents lay out their arguments at the Sept. 5 forum.

However, Steve Morasch, the developers' attorney, countered that argument by saying that the records from the first hearing was available for review by all the commission members and all parties were given the opportunity to present evidence and testimony in November.

He also told city officials that the property's current commercial zoning already allowed buildings of equal or greater size than the 14-unit condominium complex. Morasch said while the appellants had demonstrated they would prefer a "low density, sprawling form of development," new urban growth rules promoted multi-family dwellings within cities to preserve outlying resource lands.

But several Sherman Avenue property owners who testified during Monday's hearing said they had always expected some type of development on the empty lot -- but not of such bulk, height and scale that it would block their view and strip away their privacy.

"It's hurtful to us as a community to see this happen in our neighborhood, please think what it would be like if it was in your backyard," said resident Leda Prinzing.

Rouches said she had walked the site and could understand the liveability arguments.

"It's not really so much that the view would be cut off, it's that now they will be looking at walls," she said.

Dulcich and Blanchard said they have not yet decided whether to challenge the city's denial of their project before the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

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