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Planners Endorse Zoning Change For Downtown Commercial Property

Developer's proposal would convert portion of land to residential

A small parcel of undeveloped land adjoining White Salmon's downtown business district may soon see construction activity.

The 0.41-acre parcel, zoned for commercial use, is in the 100 block of W. Jewett, directly west of McCoy's Video. According to city officials, the parcel was platted in 1908 and has remained undeveloped ever since.

A developer's proposal under consideration by city officials calls for the zoning on a portion of the parcel to be switched from commercial to residential. The land could then be developed with a combination of retail shops and townhouses.

To accommodate the project, the White Salmon Planning Commission voted 3-1 to recommend changing the zoning, on roughly half of the parcel, from commercial to R-3 (multi-family residential).

The Planning Commission's vote came on March 12. The final decision on whether to alter the zoning will be made by the White Salmon City Council.

The concept, promoted by Scott Nielson, a Carson resident, calls for the front 50 feet of the parcel to be built for commercial use; while the rear 75 feet would be changed from commercial to R-3.

On the southern portion of the property, four townhouses would be built under R-3 zoning, while construction on the northern portion -- fronting Jewett Boulevard -- would be designed for retail-commercial use.

A parking area would be located underneath the retail building.

Mayor Roger Holen said he expects the City Council to vote on the zoning proposal at its March 19 meeting.

Nielson said he was optimistic the council would approve his zoning plan.

"I'm positive they'll go along with it," Nielson said. "This will create a lot of revenue by turning vacant property into usable land."

Nielson said he and his wife are considering putting in a 1950s-style diner as part of retail plans. He added that the four planned townhouse units will each be three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath units.

Holen said he believes the plan would be a good one for the city.

"I feel it's a good compromise, and I really think it's the best use of the land," Holen said. "It will make it a win-win situation, and the Planning Commission voted to recommend the change to the City Council."

However, not everyone is happy with the concept. Shirley Cox, chair of the Planning Commission, dissented on the zoning change. Cox said she was concerned about the relative lack of commercial land remaining in the downtown area.

Cox also raised a procedural issue regarding the Planning Commission vote. She pointed out that an amended application was submitted on the zoning after the original public hearing -- held on Feb. 26 -- was closed.

"The original proposal the application put in front of the Planning Commission was to rezone the whole parcel. But after the public hearing was closed, they amended the application," Cox explained.

According to Cox, the amended application was submitted to the Planning Commission less than a week before the March 12 vote.

"That's why I want to talk to the city attorney," she said. "I just feel before any further decisions are made regarding that property, the attorney's input should be sought."

Nielson said he wasn't concerned about the opposition by Cox.

"That's just one person," he said. "Everybody else is pretty excited for it. I really don't think we'll have a problem."

Nielson added that if he gains council approval, work on the parcel could begin as early as May.

"My plans are ready to go," he said.

The land is currently owned by Jim Bradshaw, a Husum resident. According to Heidi Struck, a real estate agent with Windermere, the list price on the parcel is $89,000.

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