Saturday, February 1, 2014
In the Jan. 29 edition of the Hood River News, we ran a story about the DeeTour development: a concert venue proposed for the site of the old Dee lumber mill that is projected to draw upwards of 5,000 people for its larger events.
Response from our readers has been swift and voluminous, who posted on the News’ online and social media platforms, as well as calling, dropping by, and sending letters to our office. Some showed concern over — or outright opposition to — elements of the proposal. Others showed support for the project. As of press time, a poll on the News website indicated public opinion on the issue was fairly polarized, with 97 votes in favor of the proposal, 90 against, and 4 indifferent.
What’s the word on the web?
“I hope that if this moves forward, it is done tastefully and respectfully of the many families that live there.”
“The bottleneck of Lost Lake Road, and essentially cutting residents off from coming and going because of all the traffic, should be a great concern and not blown off.”
“Please go forward with this plan and know that some of us can still see the bigger picture of opportunity for all.”
“I live in the area because of the natural peace and tranquility and I don’t want that ruined for a modern day Woodstock.”
“I believe the traffic and noise factor would be on par with that of a lumberyard, except in this case it’s supporting performing arts.”
“Revenue yes, towards the whole community, but how does it change living conditions, including taxes and home values?”
“I’d love a concert venue, but Dee is the wrong place.”
In addition to the News, many also contacted Hood River County Community Development with concerns over the lack of public notification about the development and the fast-approaching Feb. 3 comment deadline. The News did not receive any legal notice about the proposal.
Principal Planner Eric Walker explained that the Dee mill site is zoned industrial, that both commercial and industrial uses are “allowed outright” by law on industrial lands, and that “county ordinance doesn’t require public notification for an outright use.”
That being said, Walker noted that the preliminary project documents had been sent out to multiple public agencies for input (the date on the cover page of the packet says Jan. 17), including Parkdale Fire, Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Fish and Wildlife, and the Hood River County Sheriff, along with a dozen more.
Walker also mentioned that even though the public didn’t have to be notified, they were welcome to submit comments on the proposal by Feb. 3.
“We won’t disregard comments from the public just because they’re not a public agency,” he assured.
Walker said he had heard multiple concerns from the public about the project’s potential impacts.
“The big ones we’ve been hearing are traffic, noise concerns, and environmental concerns, because they are right next to the river,” he said of the development. “Frankly, we share this same concern, which is why we sent this out to public agencies.”
When asked if the county would consider extending the comment period, Walker responded that “unless requested by the applicant or an affected public agency, we have no plans to extend the comment period.”
In addition to general comments about DeeTour, the News also received comments from people who wanted more information about potential impacts caused by the development. Some of the areas of concern are listed below.
Traffic: The story mentioned the venue would have 3,095 parking spots and that the venue would target concert audiences between 3,000 and 5,000 people. Those numbers caused many to voice their concerns about the traffic impacts those cars would have on the two-lane Route 281 (Dee Highway), as well as Lost Lake Road.
According to preliminary project documents, “traffic controllers will be placed at the multiple entrances to our parking areas to ensure that we get automobiles off of Lost Lake Road as fast as possible, eliminating the possibility of backup onto Dee Highway.” It was also noted that traffic controllers would alternate between stopping traffic on Dee Highway and stopping traffic on Lost Lake Road.
The proposal also mentioned that DeeTour “will partner with the Mount Hood Railroad to allow patrons to board the train in beautiful downtown Hood River and then take a scenic trip up the Hood River Valley to an event. Parking for the train will be handled in the City of Hood River, lowering the automobile traffic to and from the event.” The railroad runs right next to the proposed site of the venue.
Noise: The county requested information about how the venue would comply with the county noise ordinance. According to the project documents, a site is considered out of compliance with the county’s noise ordinance if noise levels within 20 feet of a “noise-sensitive facility” exceed 55 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and 65 dB during all other hours. A noise-sensitive facility was identified as a dwelling, school, church, hospital, or a public library.
According to the study, an outdoor music concert can produce a sound level of 110 dB at its point source. The study also uses a mathematical formula to calculate the drop in noise levels over distance — a 6dB decline with every doubling of distance from the source, assuming no obstructions. Project documents indicated at 2,000 feet away from the venue, noise levels would drop to 44 dB (less than the noise level of a “quiet office,” according to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration chart) and the nearest noise-sensitive structure identified is 2,048 feet away, which would put the venue in compliance with the county noise ordinance, according to the study. Additionally, it was mentioned that “the site is also a natural amphitheater that will refract rather than amplify noise.”
Jobs: Taylor mentioned there would be a number of jobs supported by the venue, both seasonal and year-round, including opportunities for food vendors to sell their products, workers needed for traffic control, event staff, and a variety of other positions. However, he did not provide an estimate as to how many jobs DeeTour might create.