City wants county help on `visual clutter'

The Hood River City Council wants to eliminate "visual clutter" within the Urban Growth Area (UGA) by having the county adopt new commercial sign standards.

On April 5, City Planning Director Cindy Walbridge hand-delivered an official letter to Mike Benedict, county planning director, asking that immediate action be taken.

"The council feels we're at a point when the look of the city is pretty uniform and now we'd like to have all commercial development within the UGA conform to the same sign code," said Walbridge.

Under a formal agreement enacted between the city and county in 1997, the clock is now ticking on the 90-day time period for the county to consider adopting the same commercial ordinance that was passed by the city in 1992. Benedict said at the current time the county does not have strict criteria for the allowable height, width and number of signs within the border zone that could one day be annexed.

To meet Measure 56 requirements, Benedict said his office will notify all landowners within the UGA from 20-40 days prior to the first hearing. He said by state guidelines, he must also notify the Department of Land Conservation and Development of the pending legislative action 45 days prior to the initial hearing. Public comment will be taken when the issue is addressed by the county planning commission and then again when it is reviewed by the board of commissioners.

In 2000, city attorney Alexandra Sosknowski recommended that the city begin enforcing its code since businesses within the city limits had been given eight years to change their signs. She said that delaying enforcement further could create problems for a future governing body since a record of non-action could be construed as a repeal of the regulations.

At that time 23 commercial establishments had signs which violated the new code. However, Walbridge said no penalties were imposed since the owners of these businesses immediately made whatever changes were necessary. She said currently the downtown Exxon gasoline station has the sole nonconforming sign and the owner is working with officials to remedy the situation.

Walbridge said at the time the sign code was passed, there were more than 100 businesses violating its standards.

Under the city code, the fine for noncompliance of the commercial sign code is $250 per violation plus $2.50 per day until the sign is changed. If that fees does not serve to correct the problem, city officials will then boost the penalty each year, up to a maximum fine of $1,000 per violation plus $10 per day.

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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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