City ponders code changes to protect quality of life


News staff writer

July 15, 2006

Many Hood River citizens are feeling “closed in” by the number of large homes springing up on small lots.

Having open space eclipsed by structures with no yards was a key concern expressed in last fall’s visioning survey. City Planning Director Cindy Walbridge took note of that worry — and has attempted to address it and other identified growth problems.

On Wednesday the planning commission will look at some of her recommended changes to the zoning code. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the municipal courtroom at the junction of Second and State streets.

Under review will be a limitation on the size of the footprint for both residential and commercial structures. A single-family dwelling could cover no more than 40 percent of a lot. Commercial buildings would be allowed to take up only 65 percent of a parcel.

If structures in either zoning designation had a front porch, then another 3 percent of coverage would be allowed. Houses could extend across 45 percent of the property with a rear garage, and commercial establishments 70 percent.

“We have no coverage requirement in place right now, so this addresses that issue,” said Walbridge.

Also on the agenda is her suggestion that property owners be allowed a small rental unit. Walbridge said a loft apartment over a garage or another type of addition could provide more affordable housing opportunities. The fear that rising residential costs would drive low-to middle-income families away from Hood River was another key concern in the survey.

Walbridge is asking that the separate dwellings be restricted to 800 square feet of floor space. And, to ensure they are not used for short-term vacation stays, she asks that proof of local employment be required, along with a 12-month lease.

“We’re trying to open a market that will provide the work force of Hood River with a place to live at a little less rent,” she said.

According to Walbridge, discussions are underway between the city and HOPE (Housing for People) to enforce the accessory dwelling code. She said the city could charge a registration fee for these units and turn the money over to HOPE in exchange for its oversight of the program.

“Being able to have a mother-in-law apartment might also help homeowners. That rent could be applied to the mortgage payment to offset the increases in valuation,” she said.

The July 19 discussion also centers on a proposal that bed and breakfast establishments screen parking from public view.

Walbridge would like vehicles parked to the rear or the side of historical homes used for commercial purposes.

“We just want to keep B&Bs looking like the rest of their residential neighbors,” she said.

The planning commission will also be asked to decide if townhouses should be listed as a conditional use. Walbridge said that would allow neighbors to have more of a say in development plans than is currently available.

“Land divisions at this time don’t have standards for compatibility,” she said.

Walbridge said the four issues on the table at next week’s meeting are just the starting point for changes in development standards.

On Aug. 16, the planning commission will look at setting a definition of grade to help govern the height of hillside developments. Also on the agenda will be a review of Walbridge’s recommendations for building setbacks from alleys and easing restrictions on the processing of residential park plans.

On Sept. 20, the appointed body will address the controversial issue of building heights and density calculations.

“The end goal is to respond to the top priorities in the visioning: affordable housing, retaining the quality of life in residential neighborhoods and ensuring open space,” Walbridge said.

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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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