A public hearing on a subdivision application for a multifamily housing project resulted in a consensus vote by the Bingen City Council to continue the public hearing into the new year.
McKenzie River Company Development, based in Portland, is seeking to divide a 1.57-acre and 9.72-acre parcel, owned by Dickey Farms and located just off SR-14 on the west end of town, into five multi-family residential lots, according to a city staff report.
According to the report, McKenzie River Company Development intends to enter into a development agreement with Dickey Farms to develop the property over multiple years into workforce and multifamily housing, containing no more than 104 units housed in four separate buildings. The plans submitted to the city also include an additional amenity building to be constructed on the site, which is located directly behind Dickey Farms store and Joslyn House Bed and Breakfast.
Councilors cited a lack of information on potential occupancy, the scale of the project and potential impacts it would have on city infrastructure and on the White Salmon Valley school system for its hesitance to move forward with a decision on the application, delaying the decision until Feb. 16.
Said Councilor Isolde Schroder, “I see a lot of children living there, I see a lot of impact downstream from the addition of more, I see wear and tear, I see … a catalyst to things that we already know that need to be improved. So as a city, we’ll need to take a good hard look at what the burden is going to be on adding that many more heads.”
At the meeting, developers with McKenzie River Company Development Paul and Cathy Rudinsky responded to concerns expressed by councilors and residents. Paul Rudinsky said the housing would aim to support people living within 80 to 120 percent of the median income.
“Who we focus on when we describe workforce housing, is its teachers, police, health workers, firefighters, the type of person that really (makes) a community strong and protected,” said Paul Rudinsky.
Cathy Rudinksy said she and husband Paul feel a connection to the community, having spent a lot of time traveling around the area and raising their kids nearby.
“We are really planning to do … a really high-quality project that we would hope the Bingen community would be really proud of and we are excited about being part of this community,” said Cathy Rudinsky.
The developers propose building a road which connects SR-14 to the intersection of Joslyn and W. Lincoln streets, one detail that was contended by residents in public comments written to council.
“I do not feel our side of Bingen can handle the traffic with more residents with the current street set up, as it already feels like walking around the neighborhood, especially for children, it’s unsafe with the current amount of traffic and lack of, sidewalks, speedbumps, and narrow roads,” said Bingen resident Jessica Van Leuven.
Paul Rudinsky, in response to concerns expressed during the public commenting period, said one of the primary focus was to limit the burden on the neighbors, citing a traffic study which projects “no negative effects.”
Others comments were supportive of the project, including Dave McClure, executive director for the Klickitat County Public Economic Development Authority, who wrote that the lack of workforce housing is cited in the county’s economic development strategic plan as a weakness limiting job creation.
“The lack of housing makes it difficult for businesses, schools, hospitals, and others to recruit new employees,” McClure said. “Participants in several of the focus groups conducted to support the development of the economic development strategic plan stated that the most effective thing that could be done to support economic development is to provide more workforce housing.”
Blaire Carroll, owner of Mugs Coffee and Trellis Fresh Flowers & Gifts, argued for council support of the development in a public comment submitted to the hearing.
“I have over eight employees that struggle to find housing within the Bingen-White Salmon area, some traveling as far as Glenwood, Stevenson, The Dalles, and Trout Lake,” said Carroll. “Keeping employees is a challenge as it is, let alone trying to retain them when there isn’t adequate or affordable housing. It’s invaluable, yes, that we grow within moderation, but we cannot grow if we don’t have a place for people to live.”
The development proposal also scored the endorsement of Paul and Tammi Beneventi of Beneventi’s Pizza as well as former SDS Lumber Company president Jason Spadaro, who lauded the project’s potential to boost business activity in town and generate additional tax revenue for the city.