The Multnomah County Planning Commission culminated a two year long planning process on Monday June 1, 2015, by approving a new Sauvie Island/Multnomah Channel rural area plan and forwarding it to the Multnomah County Commission for final adoption. The Commission’s action sets the stage for the island’s future, addressing a wide variety of issues. Of particular interest was the approach to floating homes, agri-tainment and transportation.
Sauvie Island is one of the closest rural areas to downtown Portland and is special to many people, including the residents of the island, as well as the generations of Portlanders who have picked berries, ridden bikes and gone to the beach on the island. The difficulty is that, as Portland grows, the island runs the risk of being loved to death. The new rural area plan is an attempt to address some concerns before they turn into crises.
The first area of concern involves floating homes. The Multnomah Channel is home to 18 marinas and over 200 floating homes. An issue that arose in the planning process is how much those marinas would be allowed to expand. Language in the previous rural area plan would have allowed future development in those marinas at an urban density of one home every 50 feet of waterfront, resulting in a significant increase of residences in this rural area. The rural area plan approved by the planning commission would limit marinas to only those homes already allowed pursuant to existing County land use approval.
A second area of concern was the increase in farm stands and entertainment on the island. Although recognizing the demand placed on the island by its proximity to Portland, the Planning Commission wanted to respect the community’s desire to keep its rural character and avoid a Knott's Berry Farm. Accordingly, the rural area plan approved by the Planning Commission adopts a tiered approach. If a farm stand is under one acre and does not include any promotional activity, it will be subject to very little scrutiny. However, if a farm stand is greater than one acre, or includes promotional activity, it is subject to another set of rules.
Finally, a significant concern involved transportation facilities on the island. The Planning Commission expressed its desire to ensure that farm traffic can use the island’s roads, but also its frustration with multi-modal conflicts, especially with the growing bicycle use of the island. Although the rural area plan does not provide a solution, it is a step towards identifying the problem. Any fix will likely require some investment on the island.
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