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Code change stalls Naito project

Public hearing rescheduled from April 2 to April 16

An oversight by the City of Hood River planning department will mean a slight but not insignificant change in the process for a proposed development at the Hood River waterfront, on property owned by Portland-based Naito Development LLC.

A continuation of an March 19 public hearing on the development, scheduled for April 2, has been rescheduled to April 16, at which time the planning commission will also review the Conditional Use Permit application turned in by Naito.

Several months ago the city updated its Economic Opportunity Analysis, and among several code changes, one in particular applies to the development application the city planning commission is in the process of reviewing.

The code change requires commercial projects on more than 1.5 acres of C2 zoned land to apply for a Conditional Use Permit, in addition to completing the regular site plan review process. The change in code slipped through the cracks with the Naito proposal until someone giving public testimony during the April 2 hearing pointed out the new requirement.

“It (the oversight) happened because the change in code occurred between the pre-application and the application process,” commented Cindy Walbridge, city planning director. “The codification of the zoning text amendment had not yet occurred, and the amendment was not noticed. The proposal, however, will occupy a parcel larger than 1.5 acres and therefore requires a conditional use permit.”

The CUP process is similar to the site plan review, with the addition of some criteria which the planning commission must consider. In a written explanation, Walbridge explained that, similar to the site plan review, CUP criteria do not apply to on-the-water uses that the city does not otherwise regulate (specifically, the proposed cable park within the Nichols Boat Basin). The CUP process does, however, represent an expansion of the impact issues that will be considered.

Specifically; “As part of the CUP, the city may evaluate and impose conditions of approval to mitigate impacts from: A: Any harmful effects on desirable neighborhood characteristics and livability and B: Bicycle and pedestrian circulation, access and safety.”

The conditional use must be consistent with the city’s “Comprehensive Plan” and specifically with the mandatory approval criteria within the plan. However, for all issues related to impacts, the operating assumption is that a CUP may be denied only if the impacts are so significant that they cannot be mitigated through conditions to an acceptable level.

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The reason for this particular change in code stems from the desire by the city and the planning department, as expressed in the updated Economic Opportunity Analysis, to have control over the level of residential development allowed on commercial C-2 zoned property within the city. As it stood before the CUP requirement, the owner of a C-2 parcel could pursue extensive residential development on a commercial lot, as long as it fell within the limited criteria of the site plan review. Now, on any parcel over 1.5 acres, the same development would also have to go through the CUP process, which is governed by broader criteria within the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

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Verbal testimony on the site plan as well as written and verbal testimony on the CUP will extend up until the April 16 hearing. For people who have already testified regarding the site plan review, in writing or verbally, it is part of the official record, so there is no need to testify again unless comments are directed specifically to CUP criteria.

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