With a 3-1 vote last week, the White Salmon Planning Commission approved another housing development project on Spring Street.
About 10 citizens attended the meeting to register opposition to the plan, with another half-dozen letters of disapproval from neighbors on record. Opponents of the project raised concerns about congestion and related issues, but in the end the commissioners paved the way for four home residences -- a pair of two-unit townhouses -- to be built on a half-acre parcel at 185 NW Spring Street.
The zoning for the parcel is R2, and the property is within the city limits.
The proposal, from applicant Matt Melby of Hood River, now goes before the White Salmon City Council.
"The council may adopt or reject the Planning Commission's recommendation," explained Dotty Devaney, the city of White Salmon's consulting planner. "If they choose to amend the recommendation, then they would have to hold a public hearing first."
The council's next meeting will be on Wednesday, April 18, at 6 p.m. at the White Salmon Fire Station. The Melby proposal is expected to be on the agenda.
Devaney said Melby was being responsive to the city's requirements.
For example, Devaney pointed out that the right of way width requirement for Spring Street is 60 feet.
"Current ROW width along the frontage of Spring Street is only 15 feet from center, a ROW width that would total 30 feet for the entire street," Devaney wrote in her "technical memorandum" to members of the Planning Commission. "The standard ROW width is necessary along a collector street of this nature."
To make room for expanding the right of way from 15 feet to 60 feet, Melby decided to drop an additional single-family home he had originally planned to build on the same parcel with the two townhouse units.
"He amended the site plan. I couldn't recommend approval as it was originally proposed, due to the fact there was not sufficient right of way in front," Devaney explained. "I'm always sorry to shift the target on the applicant. I don't take that lightly. But eventually, Spring Street has to be improved, and we have to have that right of way there. The applicant has taken a responsible approach. He decided to redesign his plat rather than fight with us."
Devaney added that stormwater and erosion control are two other issues that need to be addressed before building can began.
"There can be no net increase in the runoff leaving the site," Devaney said.
The newest member of the Planning Commission, David Poucher, cast the lone opposing vote against the project.
"My concern is, this doesn't have to be rushed," Poucher explained. "Items need to be discussed. It behooves the city's planning people to turn over all the rocks and resolve everything. Our infrastructure for stormwater is maxed out. If there is a problem, the city will pay for that."
Poucher said that when the public shows up with concerns, the city should allow more time to review and research questions raised.
"There were a lot of people there who had questions. It's so important to get the community involved and let them air their concerns," Poucher said. "When you have that much interest, we need to slow down instead of rushing ahead and giving approval so the developer can start building before it starts raining again. This is supposed to be a rural town; it's not supposed to be Aspen. If that means it's inconvenient to the council, too bad. We're public servants."
Voting in favor of the Melby proposal for Spring Street were Craig Spaeth, Don Smith, and Suzie Willey, with Poucher opposed.
Jim Kacena recused himself from the decision.