Hood River County is willing to work with the City of Hood River to provide affordable housing on properties along Rand Road and Wine Country Avenue. On May 17, county commissioners announced support for a joint project by adding the county’s two acres to the city’s seven to create a larger mixed development project including 100 low-income dwellings as well as middle-income and market rate apartments and houses.

The project is still in early conceptual planning. City Manager Rachael Fuller said bringing the county into the project planning could make it more attractive to potential developers and eventually help pay for infrastructure costs.

Rand Road

The City of Hood River property on Rand Road, above, is slated for development for affordable housing. Hood River County owns a two-acre property nearby, to the northwest, and has expressed support for a joint housing project incorporating both properties.

In an effort to provide affordable housing in the Hood River area, the city has prepared a request for proposals from tentative developers, which includes four flexible site plans, two of which include the county’s property. Tentative plans will be finalized this summer. A developer will be chosen before the end of the year, and construction could begin in 2022. Residents can comment through May 30 on the four proposed scenarios at cityofhoodriver.gov/planning/780-rand-road-housing-development-strategy.

The city and county properties are zoned residential.

The two-acre county-owned property is northwest and close to, but not connected to, the Rand Road property. In addition to low and middle-income homes, the city is proposing a mix of housing types, including market rate homes, improving financial feasibility for potential developers. The county has not yet made specific plans for development of its land, beyond agreeing to participate in tentative plans with the city.

In a letter supporting collaboration on the project, County Commission Chair Mike Oates said, “The city’s project represents a natural opportunity for partnership between the city and county to achieve our shared goals of providing affordable housing to the community.”

Hearing set on permit timelines

Timelines for building permit activities will be curtailed, according to new zoning rules proposed by the Hood River Board of Commissioners May 17. The board read the ordinance for the first time May 17 and is set to adopt the new rules after a public hearing at 6 p.m. June 21.

The new ordinance limits the number of extensions that could be allowed for developers to complete projects. While most land-use permits would be limited to six years under the new proposed rules, the ordinance could allow an additional extension in extraordinary circumstances, such as delays in obtaining state or federal permits.

CL asks county for $100,000

The Port of Cascade Locks is asking Hood River County for a share of the federal American Recovery Act funds that aim to offset pandemic losses. Hood River County is slated to receive $4.6 million over the next two years.

Bridge of the Gods, built in 1940, lost more than $1 million in toll revenues during the pandemic, according to Jess Groves, Port of Cascade Locks president, in a letter to Hood River County Commissioners May 18. In the letter, Groves asked the county for $100,000 to address the revenue loss coupled with increased expenses to provide safety for employees and visitors and help local businesses.

County Administrator Jeff Hecksel said the commissioners heard, but didn’t act on the request. The county has not yet received funds or decided how the funds would be spent, Hecksel said.

“The port did apply for and receive some funds from the state to support local business during 2020,” Groves said of the first round of federal stimulus funds paid last year. “The port passed this money directly to over 20 Cascade Locks businesses to help them keep their doors open and retain employees.”

Cascade Locks’ Port has also applied for $217,000 in federal and ODOT relief funds available to public agencies that operate toll bridges. “But with this partial revenue reimbursement, the port continues to feel the economic impact on its budget and ability to fund critical needs,” Groves said.

The Port of Cascade Locks Commission purchased the bridge in 1961. Today, the bridge is owned and operated by the Port of Cascade Locks. Revenues from the bridge tolls pay for maintenance, painting, inspections, and bond repayment.

Kingsley Reservoir campground on tap

Hood River County’s Forestry Department is seeking $100,000 grant to build a campground and day-use facilities at Kingsley Reservoir. The county approved the grant application to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department County Recreation Trails Program will include funds request funds to complete a lakeside loop trail around Kingsley Reservoir to enhance public access for both overnight campers and day use visitors.

The Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that sets the project value at $125,000, including the county’s rock donation.

The Kingsley Reservoir campground is listed as a high priority project in the county’s Recreation Trail Master Plan. The reservoir is approximately 13 miles southwest of Hood River

The reservoir has been closed since 2017 to improve irrigation infrastructure, which raised the lake’s water level 11 feet, flooding the former campground.

Public access was planned to reopen in late 2019, but permitting delays have extended the outlook. The Farmers Irrigation District, which uses the reservoir, provides water to 5,800 acres of land on the west side of the Hood River Valley.

Hecksel said the reservoir campground may reopen by June of 2022.

Valle Moretti and Kelley tapped

In other action, the Hood River Board of Commissioners appointed Leticia Valle Moretti to the county’s planning commission. Valle Moretti, of Hood River, described herself as born and raised in Pine Grove, the daughter of migrant farmworkers. Valle Moretti has been a longtime community volunteer including the Hood River County Transportation District, the Historic Columbia River Highway Advisory Committee, One Community Health, and several other health-related and LatinX outreach organizations.

Commissioners also recommended Peter “Gil” Kelley, to represent Hood River County on the Columbia River Gorge Oregon Investment Board. The governor makes the final appointment to the board, which helps set economic investment policy for the region. Kelley, an independent adviser, said he has headed up planning a development for several West Coast cities and continues to act as a consultant to clients from his home in Hood River.

The Hood River Board of Commissioners next meets June 7 and June 21 for its regular sessions.