County sign code unveiled

County Commission sets date for introduction of new ordinance

The Hood River County Commission has set the date for introduction of its new commercial sign code for the Urban Growth Area.

Since the “urban fringe” is intended to eventually become annexed into the city, the municipality has asked the county to comply with its planning requests in those zones.

The public will have the opportunity to comment on the county’s version of the sign code on Aug. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the second floor conference room at the county courthouse.

Mike Benedict, county planning director, is recommending that existing signs be “grandfathered” so that business owners are not forced to pay expensive replacement costs. However, once these properties are incorporated into the city limits, sign owners would be granted a grace period of seven years to meet the new standards.

A debate is expected at the county hearing over the pros and cons of establishing a “freeway zone” along Country Club Road and West Cascade Avenue near the Interstate 84 interchange. The County Planning Commission failed to reach a consensus about that issue at its July 10 hearing so it will be addressed by the elected body.

Benedict said the key reason for setting up a freeway zone was “fairness.” For example, he said the Texaco gasoline station near Exit 62 derives the majority of its customer base from freeway traffic but is “virtually invisible” from the freeway while competing service stations at exits 63 and 64 have been allowed higher and larger signage.

During technical studies in 2000, the city decided that allowing larger signage between exits 63 and 64 was fair because the distance between the exits was too short for fuel/food/lodging signs and these businesses were screened by vegetation and low terrain.

Benedict said the strongest opposing argument is that allowing larger freeway signs could bring the “visual clutter” that the city had hoped to avoid by adoption of its sign code in 1992. He said the city considers the potential zone as a “gateway’ to Hood River and wants to discourage a “strip development look”.

Benedict is asking that his staff be given flexibility and discretionary authority to approve signs in any location when the regulations would have detrimental effect on a business.

He has also recommended that, unlike the city, the county not set a fee for new sign permits because these are currently considered part of a structure in the building code.

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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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