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County seeks rezone on land next to ex­-armory site

Wasco County has asked the city to rezone from parks/open space to commercial use a little-used gravel parking lot behind the former armory that once housed a seasonal Christmas tree lot.

The request will go before The Dalles Planning Commission at its Thursday, June 19, meeting at 6 p.m. at city hall, 313 Court St. Staff has recommended approving the request.

The application noted that the change would “not reduce the amount of active recreational land in the area.”

The 1.75-acre piece, when added to the 1.45-acre armory, would equal a 3.2 acre commercial lot, which is similarly sized to adjacent commercial properties. Combining the two parcels would “create the area needed, and opportunity for, a greater variety of commercial end uses and a site plan and development that creates a signature, positive impression when entering the city,” the application stated.

The 1.75-acre site is currently “underutilized and visually unappealing,” the application said.

The proposal isn’t for a specific commercial use, but just for a rezone, said Darci Rudzinski a project planner with Angelo Planning Group, which is making the request on behalf of the county.

The 1.75-acre parcel is part of the 16.5 acres owned by Wasco County that includes Kramer Field. Kramer Field is operated by the Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District.

The gravel parking lot is some 12 to 14 feet lower than the adjacent ballfields and is separated from it by an earthen berm.

The land the armory sat on was owned by the state, but reverted to Wasco County ownership when it was torn down in May.

The new armory, the Fort Dalles Readiness Center, is located next to Columbia Gorge Community College.

“The county’s overarching interest in this proposed change in use is to allow the subject site, in conjunction with opportunities presented on the commercially zoned armory site, to become a revenue-producing parcel,” the rezone application said.

“The need for this change is timely, with additional revenues needed to offset the loss of federal roadway funding, as well as to meet the county’s financial obligations to the Columbia Gorge Community College related to siting the National Guard Readiness Center on land owned by the college,” the application stated.

The sizes of commercial properties in the wider area ranged from .5 acres to 5.5 acres, Rudzinski said.

The county argues that the 1.75-acre site is underused under its existing zoning because of its physical separation from the rest of the recreation area.

The armory site, which was developed in the early 1950s, “will also be considered an under-utilized commercial site once vacated by the National Guard,” the application stated.

It would require a lot line adjustment to combine the gravel parking lot with the former armory site “to allow for redevelopment of prime commercial gateway location,” the application said.

Approving the rezone would give the expanded former armory site a depth of 260 feet. Other properties in the area have depths of 150 feet to 300 feet.

The site that would be rezoned measures about 495 feet by 155 feet. The current armory site is roughly 120 feet deep.

The city will require a traffic plan study as part of a site plan review and any development approval process.

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