Letters to the Editor for May 10, 2011

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Scale back Washougal zoning plan

My wife and I have owned our home, here in Washougal, for the last 25 years. A couple of years back when the Washougal City Council were debating the “E” Street improvements, we were very interested and attended some of those meetings and stood up to speak in favor of these improvements. We were for them because what we were hearing was a vision of a safer more attractive “E” Street, with new sidewalks, a center turn lane and bike lanes. Residents would be able to walk, bike and drive to the new shops, restaurants and services that would want to locate there.

The current city planners evidently were not around then because the zoning change they have passed on to the city council seems to contradict that vision. Their proposed rezone would allow commercial development along “E” Street from 6th Street going east to 32 Street and all the way north to “F” and “G” streets This would have a detrimental impact on the neighborhoods all along “G” Street. It would allow developers to buy up several properties at once for large projects such as big box stores, car lots, “strip” malls, etc. Along with that will come more traffic from both cars, trucks and delivery vehicles, causing more congestion.

At the last council workshop, we were told not to worry because they had design requirements in place to mitigate the problems (fencing, landscaping, etc.) While I do appreciate that those requirements are in place, I don’t agree there won’t be many adverse effects. The city planners have admitted that they won’t have any control over what type or size of business’ that could locate there. They also say they will have to allow entrance and exits onto “G” Street. That street is a narrow road that gets much vehicle and pedestrian traffic as it is. It is a residential area with many new families moving in because it is affordable. Many are fixing up these homes and taking pride in them. All along “G” Street one will notice the heavy foot traffic. There are parents with baby strollers, children skipping and running to the park or school with others pedaling tricycles and bicycles for the first time, both older and younger couples strolling, walking the family dog and some are into the power walking. So many on their way to Hathaway Elementary or our largest city park Hathaway Park both on “G” Street. More vehicle traffic would be hazardous to children. This zone change would also lower property values in these neighborhoods.

Most of these problems are preventable. The properties that have frontage on “E” Street are plenty big enough to allow the right size commercial development. There is sufficient land available east of downtown between Main Street and Highway 14 for larger development, not to mention newly rezoned tracts near the marina.

The City Council has the power to control what develops along “E” Street. I know I speak for many of our neighbors all along “G” and “F” streets by asking that they scale back this zone change to include only those properties that front both sides of “E” St.

Yes, our city leaders have a duty to plan for future economic development, but at the same time there is a responsibility to protect the safety and livability of all neighborhoods of this city.

Michael Norris, Washougal Park Board Member

Wind energy project is poorly planned

Wind energy projects should be an important part of our energy future in Washington, but poorly planned projects like Whistling Ridge should not be allowed. The project proposed for the Underwood area in the National Scenic area of the Columbia River Gorge will be visible from key viewing areas from both Oregon and Washington.

The developers claim that because it is outside the scenic area, the wind turbines should be allowed. If you can see the wind turbines from the Gorge then it is in the Scenic Area.

SDS Lumber Company will have to clear hundreds of acres of forest to accommodate the project. The Willard, Underwood area is an emerging agricultural tourism economy and this growth would be negatively affected by a large industrial complex.

There are many locations in the state that are better suited for a wind projects that will not have the impact that Whistling Ridge will have on the scenic beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. I urge the Site Evaluation Council to reconsider this application.

Write to Gov. Gregoire and ask her to deny the project.

Larry Keister, Washougal

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