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Gorge Vista opens in Rufus

PRIVATE, CITY and county partners helped make the Gorge Vista housing development a reality. The first phase of developing includes 20 view lots in Rufus. Pictured, from left, are Dan Pehlke, Rufus City Council; Mike Smith, Sherman County Court; Gary Thompson, Sherman County Judge; Jessica and Daniel Hall and baby Brooklyn, owners of the first house under construction (foundation can be seen in the background); Tom McCoy, Sherman County Court; developer John Schmidt; Rufus Mayor Cliff Jett.

PRIVATE, CITY and county partners helped make the Gorge Vista housing development a reality. The first phase of developing includes 20 view lots in Rufus. Pictured, from left, are Dan Pehlke, Rufus City Council; Mike Smith, Sherman County Court; Gary Thompson, Sherman County Judge; Jessica and Daniel Hall and baby Brooklyn, owners of the first house under construction (foundation can be seen in the background); Tom McCoy, Sherman County Court; developer John Schmidt; Rufus Mayor Cliff Jett. Photo by Kathy Ursprung.

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Developer John Schmidt and broker Keef Morgan pose on one of the view lots with Columbia Hills and Columbia River in the background.

— RUFUS — The foundation is already in place for the first house going up at the Gorge Vista housing development in Rufus.

Groundbreaking for the development took place Tuesday, Aug. 6, with developer John Schmidt inviting the family who will be its first residents, as well as Rufus and Sherman County officials, and others to the celebration. Copper West Properties of The Dalles is serving as broker. Schmidt has also partnered with Simplicity Homes of Redmond and Kase Construction of The Dalles as preferred builders, to offer some different options in terms of design.

Gorge Vista is comprised of 20 single-family residential lots averaging about a quarter-acre in size, most with panoramic views of the Columbia River. Buyers can also design their own homes, as long as they fit within the development’s covenants.

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VISTA, above, is one of the home designs made available for Gorge Vista housing development.

Schmidt sees this as an attractive option for the kiteboarders who populate Rufus during the summer, and other recreation enthusiasts to take advantage of the river views and desert landscape of the area known for its wineries, windsurfing, fishing and other outdoor recreation and enjoy the desert side of the gorge, which stands in stark contrast to the misty waterfalls and lush forests usually associated with the Columbia Gorge.

“About one hour and 45 minutes east of Portland, you’re in a completely different climate,” he said.

He also thinks retirees might be attracted to the affordability of Rufus, but people looking for a more quiet, rural setting just 20 minutes from The Dalles might also be interested, he added.

In addition to what’s already available in the region, Schmidt is interested in creating some additional recreational amenities at the development.

“Another idea is a mountain bike track,” he said. “We’ve talked with a number of people in the Hood River area who say several months of the year they really have no place to mountain bike,” Schmidt said. “As soon as you get to the Rufus and The Dalles area, it’s dry enough that you can do that kind of thing year-round.”

Gorge Vista’s 20 lots are only the first phase of development, Schmidt said. He owns about 160 acres of land that starts at Second Street in Rufus and stretches up to the top of the ridge above, with increasingly more dramatic views moving higher up.

“The long-term development potential is for hundreds of lots, if it comes to that,” Schmidt said.

Daniel and Jessica Hall will be the first residents of the development, along with their 12-month-old daughter, Brooklyn. The foundation of their new house can be seen next to Gorge Vista’s entrance drive. They have been working with Simplicity Homes.

“They have been super good to work with,” Daniel Hall said, noting that they have both sweat equity and turnkey packages. “We’re hoping once the house is built to have an open house. We’ll try to use our house as a model home.”

“This is the first stick-built home in the area since around the mid-1990s,” said Rufus Mayor Cliff Jett.

The city and county have both been involved in the project. The city applied for a $400,000 loan from Sherman County, through a program available to cities from wind revenues. The loan has provided gap funding for Schmidt to develop the first phase of the project.

“As the lots are sold, we can get repaid,” said Jaclyn McCurdy, Rufus city administrator.

McCurdy said the development will add much-needed infrastructure for the city and housing for the county.

“I’ve never had an experience where the city and county have been so helpful,” Schmidt said.

For more information about Gorge Vista, visit www.gorgevista.com or contact Keef Morgan at Copper West Properties at 541-300-0071 or keef@copperwest.com.

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