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Zone change: solid plan

Editorial for March 20

Although the proposal has not yet been finalized, a development plan for the western edge of downtown White Salmon appears to make a lot of sense.

Directly west of McCoy's Video in the 100 block of W. Jewett is a piece of property covered with blackberry bushes and a bit of trash. The parcel is less than half an acre, and according to city officials, nothing has ever been built on it. For a time, there was a house trailer resting on it, but that was removed years ago.

Recently, however, Scott Nielsen, a local developer, has been working on a progressive plan for the site. Nielsen proposes to build several lots on the parcel: Four of the lots would be for townhouses, with the portion of the lot fronting Jewett Boulevard built to provide commercial retail space.

The problem with the concept is that the land is currently zoned for general commercial use, and residential townhouses would not be permitted under that zoning. But last week, voting on a compromise application, the White Salmon Planning Commission voted 3-1 to support changing the zoning on the back (southern) half of the parcel from commercial to R-3, multi-family residential, leaving the front part of the parcel along Jewett zoned for commercial use.

This week, the White Salmon City Council is expected to decide whether to accept or reject the zoning package.

This zoning alteration makes sense, because the area directly south of the parcel already is substantially developed with a variety of residential units. Townhouses could be a good fit there.

It also is essential that the commercial property be retained along that portion of Jewett Boulevard, because it is a natural extension of the downtown business corridor.

The beauty of this compromise is that it maintains the prime commercial zoning, while providing for additional residential development in an appropriate area.

Shirley Cox, chair of the city's Planning Commission, cast the sole opposing vote on the plan. She expressed concern that commercial land is in short supply, and the parcel ought to be preserved as is. That is a legitimate point. However, this plan preserves the portion of the property most likely to be used for commercial purposes.

That particular parcel has sat undeveloped since it was platted in 1908, and there is no reason to expect there is about to be a rush on commercial-retail development on that plot of land. Indeed, this proposal probably represents the most realistic chance for that land to see commercial development in the foreseeable future.

Cox also raised a valid issue related to the process on the rezoning proposal. The developer submitted an amended application after the public hearing was held, and it was the amended application the commission voted on. Cox has asked the city attorney for clarification as to whether the proper steps were followed. As of Monday, the attorney had not yet made a determination.

All things considered, this looks like a smart plan. The Planning Commission was wise to recommend that the City Council approve the compromise zoning concept. Provided the attorney gives an OK to the process question, the council ought to ratify the commission's recommendation.



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