Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Council Summary: 11/13/06, with dirty pictures

These aren't official minutes, but here are my highlights of this evening's City Council meeting:

Height Reduction:

Council completed deliberations on new building height restrictions. They like the proposal to reduce building height from 35' to 28' in R1, R2, and R3, except to allow 35' for multifamily (>3 units) in R3. Remodels, additions, etc. will need to be within the 28' even if your house is >28'.

They want to allow a "conditional use" up to 35' in R3 for single family or duplex/ triplex, but that involves a hearing at which you will need to prove compatibility. As it was explained to me, you can only use "conforming uses" surrounding you-- ie., multifamily structures. Existing single family or duplex/ triplex structures >28' will be considered "legal non-conforming uses." They cannot be used to prove your 35' addition will be compatible with the neighborhood.

City Council asked Planning staff to prepare an ordinance stating all of this, so they can vote on it at the next meeting. After they pass an ordinance, it becomes law in 30 days.


Yes, it smelled even worse than it looks. Sewers have been a real problem lately, with some very dramatic system failures. There was a "special meeting" of City Council a few weeks ago to enact a new ordinance requiring residents to install backwater preventers in certain circumstances. This ordinance apparently helps shield the city from some liability in these failures. I thought these devices would not be necessary if the city replaced old pipes and cleaned them regularly. Wrong! One of the recent failures occured on newer sewer lines when a stick and a pipe piece jammed in a manhole. This could have happened the day after a cleaning. The problem is that it isn't completely clear who needs backwater preventers and who doesn't. If you can't figure it out from the diagram in the Hood River News, you should call Public Works at 386-2383. They'll take your name and get back to you with a definitive answer.

To deal with the broader issue of decaying sewer pipes and an aging system the council approved an ordinance to raise the residential sewer rate for most people from $36 to $40. There was a corresponding increase in rates for commercial and industrial users. This will fund projects which were identified in 2001 as critical to the continued operation of the system. For example, the clay sewer mains on Columbia Street will be replaced. This rate increase comes on top of the stormwater fee earlier this year, and the water rate increases last year-- it's been a very tough year.


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