On the horizon

A look at the county’s proposed growth management plan

Stephen W. Horenstein
Miller Nash

Managing growth is once again in the forefront for Clark County. The perennial challenge of anticipating the community’s need to accommodate job and population growth is reflected in an extraordinary process undertaken by the current Board of County Commissioners to update Clark County’s comprehensive growth management act plan.

The commissioners began this planning process in January of 2005, merely three months after the prior board adopted a growth management plan that was five years in the making. The new board restarted the planning process because it did not believe that the plan adopted in September of 2004 realistically addressed job and population growth for Clark County and its cities.

The current GMA planning process is on track to be completed next month. In early November, the board finalized its preferred alternative, a map identifying urban growth area expansions outside the municipal boundaries for each city in Clark County except Yacolt. This preferred alternative will be included in a final environmental impact statement issued by Clark County to support the GMA planning process, be the subject of public hearings before the board and Clark County’s Planning Commission in the last week of November and support the adoption of a final growth management plan update in December of 2006.

Unique to this GMA planning process was the board’s adoption of a VALUES/ PRINCIPLES statement setting forth guidance to be followed in preparing this update. Among the 17 items included within the statement are maintaining our tax base, environmental protection and balancing jobs and population between the cities and others.

Following are highlights of the preferred alternative for each city:

Vancouver: Minimizes the addition of land for high-density residential development while adding significant land to Vancouver’s UGA for job creation, primarily along the north boundary of Vancouver’s existing UGA.

Camas: Adds land for low-density residential development along the north and east boundaries of Camas’s UGA while adding significant land for industrial and mixed use development east of Lacamas Lake.

Washougal: Provides for a balanced mix of additional uses along the north boundary of its existing UGA.

Battle Ground: Provides for additional residential and commercial uses primarily to the west of its existing UGA.

Ridgefield: Provides for additional residential development to the north, south and east of the existing UGA as well as a minimal amount of land for job creation along Interstate 5.

LaCenter: Provides for a major expansion of its UGA. Land for development is proposed to be added all along LaCenter Road from the existing UGA boundary at Timmen Road to Interstate 5. Job-creation land will be designated at the Interstate 5 junction with residential land added between the junction and Timmen Road.

As always, the availability of capital facilities (primarily roads, sewer, schools and parks) to serve the proposed UGA expansions will be an issue. Much of the UGA expansion, especially surrounding the smaller cities, is likely to be placed in urban holding zones, which will preclude development until capital facilities are available at urban levels.

The preferred alternative maps are likely to change as a result of the aforementioned public hearings. Appeals of the final adopted growth management act plan will probably be made to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board.

As Clark County continues to grow, staying ahead of the planning curve remains critical in order to accommodate jobs and population.

Further information about this topic may be found on Clark County’s Web site and by attending upcoming hearings on the proposed plan.

Steve Horenstein is an attorney with the Vancouver office of Miller Nash. His practice includes land use planning, government affairs/public policy development and advocacy, as well as business and real estate transactions. Horenstein can be reached at steve.horenstein@millernash.com or 360-699-4771.

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