Residential allowed at waterfront

City council nixes language to require 30-day stay for waterfront residential

The City of Hood River will allow residential development on the waterfront after all. And developers won’t be facing as many restrictions as they could have.

The Hood River City Council approved language authorizing residential development in waterfront C-2 zones, provided that at least 50 percent of the building is used for commercial purposes.

City planning staff had included language that would have prohibited short-term rentals of less than 30 days in any waterfront units.

However, after a wide-ranging discussion between the council members, that language wound up being removed.

The city council was read a letter from planning commission member Bill Irving, who stated he did not see the point in the 50 percent limit or the 30-day minimum for renting.

Irving stated that, using a three-story building as an example, the 50 percent rule would push residential to the third floor only, and putting a 30-day minimum on rentals would leave any residential units dark for large portions of the year, and only accessible to the wealthy.

Council member Brian McNamara, who was not present at the previous meeting, said he saw the letter as essentially advocating for banning residential outright.

At the Jan. 28 meeting the rest of the council agreed to reverse itself on its previous plan to ban residential on the waterfront.

McNamara said he was still leaning toward banning residential during the discussion, but eventually voted to strike the 30-day minimum stay language and move the ordinance forward in the adoption process.

Council member Kate McBride also said she was unsure about the 30-day minimum stay language and stated that she continued to favor a floor area ratio approach instead of the 50 percent residential maximum.

There was a wide range of feelings across the council about both the 50 percent commercial minimum and the 30-day rental minimum.

“I like the 50 percent rule and don’t mind the vacation rental aspect of it,” said Mark Zanmiller.

Most of the rest of the council lined up with that idea, including McNamara, who said if there was going to be residential on the waterfront, it did not make sense to limit it to stays longer than 30 days.

“If you want the lights to be on you are going to have to put people in there,” McNamara said. “You are going to have to put people in the beds.”

Mayor Arthur Babitz said he opposed less than 30-day rentals in neighborhoods because of the amount of parking they would require, but did not see that same problem at the waterfront.

Eventually the council voted to strike the 30-day minimum stay language from the ordinance, with McBride being the only vote against the change.

In other council news:

n The council moved forward with adopting a new set of system development charges. The charges fund improvements to city transportation infrastructure to offset the impact of development.

The charges are applied when new buildings are constructed or when the use of a building changes. As part of the current process, the city is attempting to determine what would constitute a change in use.

At the Jan. 28 council meeting the council requested city staff to research other cities’ charges in zones such as retail, office and light-industrial, and report back.

The council presented those figures to the council this week and will now make final tweaks to the ordinance before presenting it to the council at its Feb. 25 meeting.

n The City of Hood River is set to go to bid on a major upgrade to its set of tennis courts.

The City Council approved the move for what is expected to be a $285,000 facelift to the Tsuruta Tennis Courts off May Street.

The Hood River Tennis Court Committee has already received numerous grants for the project and currently estimates it has all but around $10,000 of the needed funds, either raised or available through grants.

City Manager Bob Francis said it will be determined if anything needs to be removed from the project in order to lower the cost once the bids come back on the project.

He added that the plan now is for construction to start in May and likely wrap up in May.

n The council approved Hood River’s participation in a sponsorship of the Mid-Columbia Regional Home Repair Program. The approval allows low-income Hood River residents to apply to the program, which uses grant funds to make needed home repairs.

n The council took the rare step of pulling a liquor license application from its consent agenda for further review. Heights Shell had applied for a permit for “off-premise sales.” According to City Recorder Jennifer Gray, who handles liquor license submissions, the permit would allow the station to fill growlers. However, nowhere on the application did it define what “off-premise sales” meant in this particular case.

Francis suggested that the council defer until the next meeting so that city staff could get the council more information.

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