What’s up with the Westside Area Concept Plan?

You’ve probably heard some hullabaloo about the Westside Area Concept Plan either in the Hood River News last yearlast month, or last week or from your friends and neighbors.  Over the next few days we’ll share answers to some of the most common questions as well as our take on the project. We also want to hear from you. What do you like about Westside Area Concept Plan proposals? What worries you? What could be better? Are there things that the plan should address but doesn’t? If you’ve got questions or comments, send them to our Director, Heather Staten heather@hrvrc.org or (541) 490-5225.

So far the Westside Plan consultants have generated more than 450 pages (!) of traffic simulations, road routes and elevations, housing projections, infrastructure funding scenarios, bike and pedestrian projects, Cascade Avenue makeovers, etc., etc., etc. It is a big complex project with lots of detail but we firmly believe that we plan better with robust public participation. In order to help folks get a sense of the issues, the Residents Committee and Livable Hood River will be hosting an informational public forum on the Westside Area Concept Plan on July 26th from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Columbia Center for the Arts. We are planning the event now and want to make sure we have speakers that cover the questions you have. What do you want to know more about? Let us know.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Westside Area Plan?

The Westside Area Plan is an effort by the City of Hood River to plan for the future of 450-acres of emerging neighborhoods on the west side of town between Rand and Frankton by doing a comprehensive area plan. The Plan will create a vision for the growth and livability of the Westside area and address land use, zoning, streets, bikeways, pedestrian paths, parks, schools, utilities, and infrastructure funding. Increasing the diversity and supply of workforce and affordable housing is a specific goal of the project. The project is funded by an integrated land use and transportation planning grant from the Transportation Growth Management Program of Oregon Department of Transportation and Department of Land Conservation and Development.

The Westside area contains the majority of undeveloped land in the City. Hood River did this map of their inventory of buildable lands in 2015 as part of their Housing Needs Analysis. We call it the “map of the future” because it shows where Hood River is going to grow. The blue and red shading is for vacant or partially vacant land. The yellow property is the much-needed Westside Park we proposed last year. While there will be building in other parts of the city over the next 20 years, the majority of new housing will go where there is raw land available to build– Hood River’s Westside. With or without any major zoning changes, this area is where you should expect most growth to occur. 

BLI

Why do it?

The 450-acre Westside Area was originally planned 34 years ago (1983) and those plans have not been updated even though a lot has changed in three plus decades. Hood River’s population has nearly doubled. There is not a single park in the Westside Area and the existing code and map don’t call for any to be built. We strongly feel that parks are an essential part of neighborhood livability. If we just stayed with the current Transportation System Plan the future school on Sherman would be fronted by a three-lane arterial road elevated 15 feet above the grade of the school. We can do better than that! By planning ahead of development, we’ve got our best shot to make these new neighborhoods into beloved parts of our city.

Where are we in the process?

Since last October, the City of Hood River’s Planning Department led by Senior Planner Kevin Liburdy, the project consultant team led by Joe Dills of Angelo Planning, a Technical Advisory Committee and a Project Advisory Committee have met five times to work on a Concept Plan for the Westside Area. There have also been two public open houses and two online surveys.

There are two more Advisory Committee meetings and the public is welcome to attend:

August 9th – Review Infrastructure Funding and Draft Code Recommendations

September TBD – Review Draft Concept Plan and Supporting Policies and Code

While the Advisory Committees are helping shape the plan, the Concept Plan is just that—a concept—until its elements are adopted and implemented by the City. The adoption phase goes through the Planning Commission then the City Council and has its own lengthy process with many opportunities for public input and revision. The Planning Commission and City Council will decide which parts of the Concept Plan they want to work on. While the Concept Plan will offer recommendations for zoning and other code/policy changes, the Planning Commission and City Council are free to change, ignore or add to the recommendations in the plan. They will do this over a series of work sessions and hearings starting in September and spanning multiple months. The public is highly encouraged to be involved during this part of the process.

What is the vision for the Westside Area?

Working with the consultants the Technical and Project Advisory Committees came up with a vision statement for the area. While some community members have expressed concerns about various aspects of the draft Concept Plan, we have heard near universal support for the vision. The trick will be turning the vision into reality:

Westside Area Plan Vision

The Westside Area will grow to become an interconnected community of great neighborhoods, an attractive gateway of commercial and mixed use activity, and an affordable and diverse area of the City. The Westside’s hallmarks will be:

  • Housing options that provide choices for all income levels, life stages, and cultures within Hood River
  • Streets, trails, and paths that are walkable, connected, and green
  • Neighborhood design that celebrates the landforms, views, and magnificent landscape of Hood River
  • Open spaces and parks that support community gathering and a connection to nature

The Westside Area will be an integral part and extension of the larger Hood River community.
 
What does the Resident’s Committee think of the plan? 

We believe that proactive, comprehensive planning leads to better places. Since the Westside area contains the majority of the city’s unbuilt land, it seems like the right time to plan so that these emerging neighborhoods are great places to live.

“Do we support the Westside Plan?” The plan is a work in progress. It’s not a done deal nor is it anywhere near done.  We support the vision for the community laid out in the plan but there is a big step between an appealing vision and implementation strategies that will achieve the vision. We are on the Project Advisory Committee and have advocated strongly for livable, walkable neighborhoods and diverse housing choices. We will continue to do our best to thoughtfully study the proposals, provide input and push for strategies that will effectively implement the vision.

This process is about hammering out a good plan with a lot of public participation. We encourage folks to find out more and get involved.

What You Can Do:

Our community is better when we plan it together. This is a public process and we are less than halfway through. There is plenty of time for interested citizens to impact and improve the project.
First, go to the project website and spend a little time exploring the proposals under consideration. Get on the project mailing list to make sure you learn about upcoming meetings and get all the project materials. You can make your thoughts known to the project team by sending them to Senior Planner, Kevin Liburdy.

Discussions about whether to change zoning in the project area has dominated public discourse but the plan also makes changes to our transportation plan, including some new streets. One of the goals of the project is to get people out of their cars and encourage walking and biking. We are looking for folks to help ground truth the bikeways and pedestrian trails plan. A great system of trails and bikeways will make living in these neighborhoods more healthy, environmentally friendly and fun. If you would be interested in helping analyze these proposals with on-the-ground research (i.e. riding your bike or taking a walk along the proposed routes), let us know. We want to conduct a bike audit and walk audit.