About 13 years after beginning efforts to create a 54-lot residential subdivision along the Cowlitz River in Kelso, a Portland developer said he believes he is on verge of getting final approval.
The 14-acre subdivision, called Fairway Vista Estates, would be located in a narrow, sandy strip of land across South River Road from the Three Rivers Golf Course.
Developer Harry Henke said last week that the project’s proximity to the river and a dike meant he’s had to submit plans to multiple agencies.
“It’s a complicated project because of all the agencies involved. Had we known going in, we never would have bought it,” he said. “We’re really excited; it’s just taking a long time.”
Henke’s plan is to eventually build “reasonably affordable, middle-income” homes on the lots. They would likely all be one-level and the average lot size is about a quarter-acre.
The project would affect the South Kelso dike. Therefore, it requires approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is accepting public comment on the project until Feb. 21. (See breakout box.)
Planned improvements include widening South River Road, constructing an interior access road and installing a sanitary sewage pump station, conveyance pipes and new water main lines, according to the Corps of Engineers. In addition, Henke plans to install cable, power, phone and gas, as well as pedestrian pathways and sand filtration basins for treating stormwater.
Approval from the Corps of Engineers is the “last hurdle,” Henke said.
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“As soon as the Corps gives us approval, we will start working on it,” he added. That could be as soon as September or October.
He submitted plans to the City of Kelso that said construction would require three phases, but Henke said he’d like to build it all in one shot.
“It makes sense to do it all at once, if you can sell 30 homes a year, which I think we can,” he said. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand in your area, especially anything on the riverfront. It’s a pretty beautiful site.”
Henke said he would have liked to build apartments on the land, which is zoned for high-density residential uses, but he was restricted to single-family homes because of the nearby railroad crossing and traffic concerns.
South River Road dead-ends at the golf course, but Henke said he’s not very concerned about access to and from the homes, especially since the city is working on a railroad overpass.
“That was a huge criteria that helped us. I think (the development) will increase the traffic out there immensely and that whole area is going to grow when the bridge is built,” Henke said.
Kelso Community Development Director Michael Kardas on Wednesday said construction of the overpass likely won’t begin until the end of 2021. The Legislature allocated $25 million for the project, but project cost estimates last year increased from $25 million to $27 million.
Henke said the project has moved slowly, but local city and diking officials have been very helpful.
“We’re really excited about Kelso and Longview,” he said. “It seems like an area that’s always been restricted for new housing and that has been few and far between.”
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