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Hearing Set To Discuss Spring Street Plan

Hearing scheduled for June 6

A controversial proposal to allow townhouses to be built on NW Spring Street was put on hold to allow time for a public hearing on the development plan.

On May 2, the council voted 4-0 to continue a hearing on the Spring Street proposal.

A public review of plans to build two new two-unit townhouses on the half-acre parcel was recommended by Dotty DeVaney, who serves as a consulting land use planner for the city of White Salmon. The townhouses are being proposed by Hood River developer Matt Melby, and the White Salmon City Council will soon have to decide whether to approve or reject Melby's proposal.

The hearing will coincide with the City Council's first meeting in June, which will fall on Wednesday, June 6.

The parcel where the townhouses would be built is located at 185 NW Spring Street in White Salmon.

According to DeVaney, what the city decides could set precedent for future developments along Spring Street.

"Continued development is likely in this area. What you decide will have impacts on other developments," she explained. "You need to include options to address that."

DeVaney noted that part of Spring Street is outside the current city boundaries of White Salmon, and maintenance of the roadway is under Klickitat County's jurisdiction. However, DeVaney pointed out that because the area could eventually be annexed into the city of White Salmon, the county is reluctant to spend thousands of dollars on improving the roadway.

"I predict the county might never make improvements to this street a priority, because you're [city of White Salmon] actively annexing," DeVaney explained. "It's not reasonable to assume the county will propose a remedy to upgrade this street."

DeVaney pointed out that Spring Street's existing narrow right of way is an ongoing concern that needs to be addressed by the city and the county. Currently the roadway is 15 feet from the center; 60 feet is the standard.

"We recommend you schedule this for a public hearing," DeVaney said. "The street issue is most serious."

Council member Timi Keene said she believed a public hearing on the proposal would be helpful.

"Given the verbal and written testimony regarding this area and comments at previous council meetings, I agree this is something to set for a public hearing," Keene said. "The other reason for continuing this hearing is the fact that the Planning Commission minutes from April 11 have not yet been approved. To make a decision that might involve those minutes would not be appropriate."

At the April 11 meeting Keene referred to, the Planning Commission members voted 3-1 to approve the Melby townhouse development.

Several citizens have attended recent council meetings to register their concerns about allowing further development along Spring Street.

One resident who spoke out at last week's meeting, Dorothy Herman, said the roadway is already strained to capacity.

"I don't feel it's my responsibility to pay to provide for somebody to do short plats and annexation into the city," Herman said. "The city should consider a moratorium on development until the city and the county can get together and improve Spring Street."

Another resident, Shelley Baxter, said the Melby proposal and other development plans need to be put on a slow track.

"The issues in the process need to be looked at. This guy [Melby] has been given approval before an up-to-date traffic study has been completed," Baxter told the council. "It looks like you're going to approve this and fix the problems later -- which is a lot like what the city is doing with the water issue."

After the meeting, DeVaney said the council's land use decisions do not necessarily set binding precedent, but this is a unique case.

"We're striving for quality and consistency in how we'll handle these matters," DeVaney said. "We should try to resolve this issue now rather than try to work it out individually every time it comes up."

The June 6 hearing on the Spring Street proposal will be held at the White Salmon fire hall. It starts at 6 p.m.

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