Residents appeal “Middle Housing” change

Story Submitted:

Five local residents are challenging the city of  Hood River’s new “Middle Housing” zoning change, citing inadequate public notice. The petition will be heard  by the Oregon Land Use  Board of  Appeals.

          “This change in the zoning code is citywide. It will affect every neighborhood in Hood River, and allow a great increase in density,” said Brian Towey, the appeal’s lead petitioner.  “People deserve a chance to be more informed about the change, and have an opportunity to let the city council know about their concerns. This is a very important matter and yet very few residents are even aware of it.”

          Other petitioners, in addition to Towey, are Kim Kean, Denise McCravey, John McGrory and Jeanie Senior.

          Despite city rules requiring a public hearing notice to be widely distributed, Towey said, the only advance notice of the March 8 public hearing on the code change was buried in the regional newspaper’s Public Notices page–and it missed the city’s minimum deadline for publication.          

          Besides being late, the notice was insufficient, McGrory wrote in testimony submitted to the city council. “Under Oregon statutes, for changes this sweeping to property rights, the notice should be delivered by mail to all property owners.”          In The Dalles, which is considering a similar zoning code change, letters went out this week to all The Dalles property owners.  That city also is publishing information on the city’s web site and on social media.

          There’s a real need in Hood River for more information on the new zoning code, Towey said.  “People believe, for instance, that it is focused on affordable housing, but that’s not where it’s headed.

          “Educated guesses are that if you can afford $350,000 plus–a number discussed by the planning commission–for a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot cottage, then this may be for you,” he said.  “However,  there are no provisions to safeguard these new high density housing types for use by Hood River residents, and they may be used as vacation rentals–or sold to people who want a second home here. This is market rate housing, it will not be the affordable housing Hood River needs.”

          Also, McGrory pointed out, once the zoning code change takes effect, a developer will need only a permit to start work on a multi-unit development. “Neighbors need not be informed. Neighbors are powerless to weigh in, even if they become aware of it. At least with PUDs [planned unit developments] there are mandatory neighborhood meetings and public hearings. Not so with the proposed ordinance.”

          Towey said he expects to know soon when the land use appeals board will hear the case.

Brian Towey
Hood River, OR  97031
brian@briantowey.com