A radical and ambitious 15-year “Vision for Kelso” was rolled out last night in a joint meeting of the Kelso City Council and the Kelso Planning Commission, as consultant Gregg Dohrn presented the proposals for revisions to the city’s Development Plan. Dorhn says that his review and study shows that Kelso has some serious constraints in regard to development. Dohrn says that his study shows that Kelso’s population has been virtually stagnant since 1980, adding only 700 residents since that time. Vacant land parcels make up more than half of the city’s land area, and nine out of ten land parcels in the city are either used for housing or are vacant. 84 percent of all vacant land is also constrained by one or more environmentally-sensitive areas, so the city has virtually NO unconstrained, vacant land available for development. Dohrn says that Kelso will need to re-develop existing land, or develop vacant parcels to move forward. Several “next steps” are planned, including a update of the Zoning Map, completion of the Shoreline Master Plan, and preparation of a Neighborhood Plan for West Kelso. Dohrn says that they plan a comprehensive outreach and review process before these revisions are brought to the City Council for approval. Dorhn’s full presentation is available on the City of Kelso web page.
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By a vote of 6-1, the Kelso City Council is giving its approval to an adjustment in the land use plan, adjusting the buffer between residential areas and facilities that produce or process marijuana. City Manager Steve Taylor says that this is a pretty common-sense move. Kelso originally had adopted the same buffer as Longview, but a review in the field shows that there would be no impact on surrounding properties, as marijuana production and processing facilities are fully self-contained. Taylor says that the removal of the 250-foot buffer could open up some additional properties for development. The Council also approved a code change that applies the same rules to micro-wineries as currently exist for micro-breweries; as the law was written, a brewpub could be built in West Kelso, but a micro-winery could not.
Cowlitz County saw a drastic improvement in the local jobless rate, dropping more than a full percentage point in the month of March. Washington Employment Security says that the March unemployment rate came in at 7.7 percent, well below the February number of 9.1 percent. Regional Economist Scott Bailey says that’s also more than a full point during the same period last year. Year-to-year, the county’s labor force has expanded by more than 1,400 people, an increase of 3.3 percent. The number of employed residents has also grown, going up by more than 1,900. New and continuing unemployment claims continue to be at “very low levels.”
Washington Fish and Wildlife says that the Kalama River will remain open for Spring Chinook fishing for the time being, but they are keeping a close eye on things, to make sure that the hatchery return is preserved. The preseason forecast for the Kalama was set at 1,900 fish, with a hatchery escapement goal of 400 fish. Fish managers say that they don’t have any information showing that the totals will end up any different. However, to be conservative, the bag limit is being reduced to one adult hatchery Chinook salmon, along with five juveniles. The season originally had been set to close on Friday, May 1st. Full details are available on the WFDW website.
“Awareness Week” is continuing at Lower Columbia College, with a series of events being sponsored by the LCC Student Government. Things were kicked off yesterday with a focus on Disability Awareness; a comedy duo called “Friends with Tourette’s” presented a show titled “Preferred Parking.” Today is Cultural Awareness Day, and will include a performance by “Ekome” a tribal dance group out of Portland. That’s scheduled for noon today at the Student Center. Tomorrow looks at Alcohol Awareness, and will feature a talk by Rena Clark. She’ll be talking about the loss of her son due to alcohol abuse. Friday is focused on Suicide Awareness, and will have members of the student government placing pairs of empty shoes around campus, symbolizing the lives lost to suicide. All of these events are open to the community. Contact the ASLCC office if you need more information.
A woman who was waiting at a bus stop on 15th Avenue says that a man made some inappropriate and possibly threatening remarks yesterday afternoon. The woman called Longview Police from the 1000 block of 15th Avenue a little after 4 pm, saying that she had been at the bus stop when a man pulled up in a newer passenger car, and told her to get in. She claims that the man told her “you’re going to be my next prostitute.” The man then drove off. Police checked the area, but didn’t find a vehicle matching the description provided by the woman.
Broc Joseph Brunelle, 27, is under arrest after a foot chase through West Kelso yesterday afternoon. Kelso Police say that this got started at about 5:35 pm, when officers spotted Brunelle walking along the street in the 300 block of Northwest 3rd. They say Brunelle ran when he saw the officers, running in a westerly direction. The chase went across Long Avenue, Royal Street and Cowlitz Way, eventually ending in the 500 block of Cowlitz Way, where Brunelle was tackled and arrested. The local transient is now being held on a no-bail Department of Corrections warrant, and will also face a new charge of resisting arrest.
A bill that will require increased education about the risks of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in teens is now law, signed last weekend by Governor Jay Inslee. In January, Spencer Best from Mark Morris High School testified in support of Senate Bill 5083, a bill that was brought forward by Senator Rosemary McAuliffe, after she learned of the impacts of this condition. Best says that the goal is to raise awareness and to educate kids and parents, to bring the issue up to the same level as the current awareness over concussion prevention. Under this bill, school districts will be required to provide online pamphlets about Sudden Cardiac Arrest to students, teachers and parents; they would also be required to host informational meetings on the subject at the start of the school year. Spencer Best is one of the rare survivors of Sudden Cardiac Arrest; he collapsed while playing pickup basketball at Mark Morris, but was revived by a coach and a parent, who were able to immediately provide CPR and an Automated External Defibrillator. Best says that the passage of this law is a good thing, and will help to save lives.
The Washington Transportation Commission is in Kelso today, meeting with local officials and business people, to learn more about this area’s transportation issues and challenge. This is a day-long meeting that will take place in the Kelso City Council Chambers, going from 9 am until 5 pm. There will be a series of short presentations on local successes and challenges, future plans and transportation needs in this area. The ports of Longview and Kalama will lead one session, and there will also be a session on the mobility and safety challenges connected to the road and rail conflicts along Industrial Way. Today’s meeting is open to the public. The Commission is setting aside time at the end of the meeting for public comment, starting at 4:45 pm.
Starting with a series of YouTube videos and new letterheads, the Port of Longview is rolling out a new brand and a new logo. Port officials say that they have spent nearly two years and about $95,000 on this process, looking to re-brand itself as “Washington’s Working Port.” They say that the earlier image of the port was “inconsistent,” and looked pretty much like everyone else. The Port’s Director of External Affairs, Ashley Helenberg, says that they’re trying to set themselves apart, trying to establish a unique identity and competitive position. The Port is in the process of rolling out new brochures, business cards and other image-building publications, showing that the Port of Longview is “all hands on deck” when handling cargo, with a team that’s “not afraid to get its hands dirty.” The first of the new videos is now up on YouTube.