The New Growth Management Plan–Development Opportunities and Constraints

After three years in the making, the Clark County Board of Commissioners adopted a new Growth Management Plan on September 25. Miller Nash is pleased to provide a comprehensive overview of the new plan for Clark County and its cities. An unprecedented 19 square miles of rural land has been added to the urban growth area of the various cities—perhaps one of the biggest expansions in any community since the Washington State Legislature adopted the Growth Management Act in 1990.

This publication contains nine customized maps prepared by the Clark County Graphical Information System office. They are modified to pinpoint urban growth areas for all cities in Clark County, with a breakdown of zoning designations for each of the properties. The exception is Yacolt, whose urban growth area did not expand. Every map also identifies the amount of acreage for each type of zoning located within the urban growth area.

When reviewing the maps, notice that the broad mix of uses has been added to each city’s urban growth area (“UGA”).

Battle Ground

Battle Ground’s growth will largely occur in the expanded urban growth area to the west of the city, with smaller boundary expansion added to the north and south of the city’s current UGA. This UGA expansion is heavy with residential and mixed-use zoned land with a very modest amount of industrial and commercial land added for Battle Ground’s future development.

Camas

All of Camas’s urban growth area expansion can be found north and east of Lacamas Lake. A great deal of land added to the UGA of Camas is single- and multi-family residential and mixed-use development. Less than one acre of commercial land has been added to the Camas UGA. Of importance in the expanded Camas UGA is a 320-acre employment center provided for on the north slope of the lake.

La Center

As the northernmost point in the Discovery Corridor on Interstate 5, La Center has proportionately received perhaps the most job-creation land than any of the other cities’ expanded UGAs. In addition to providing for 88 acres of commercial development on the east side of Interstate 5 at the La Center junction, over 607 acres of industrial land have been added to La Center’s urban growth area. Some 152 of these acres are likely to become a federal enclave for the Cowlitz Tribe Project, which will also produce significant jobs within the community. La Center’s urban growth area is also marked with the addition of significant single- and multi-family residential acreage.

Ridgefield

The expansion of the Ridgefield UGA is marked by almost 1,500 acres of additional single- and multi-family residentially zoned land primarily to the north and east. Only 34 acres of commercial and 176 acres of industrial land have been added to Ridgefield’s inventory.

Vancouver

As with Ridgefield, Vancouver’s urban growth area expansion is proportionately light on job-creation land with only 1,300 industrial/employment center acres added along with 44 acres for commercial development. The vast majority of Vancouver’s UGA expansion area is zoned for mixed use and single- and multi-family residential use. Although Vancouver might be expected to be a hub for future job growth, the Clark County commissioners accommodated Vancouver’s vision for its future, which resulted in the addition of a great deal of residential property to its UGA.

Washougal

Washougal’s UGA expansion is largely to the north of the city. Single- and multi-family residential acreage added to the Washougal UGA amounts to approximately 369 acres. Job-creation land designated for the expanded Washougal UGA is approximately 640 acres.

At the risk of oversimplifying the allocation of uses in new UGAs countywide, it is clear that the bulk of the residential development will go to Battle Ground, Ridgefield, Camas, La Center, and Vancouver, with the bulk of the job-creation land going to Camas, La Center, Washougal, and Vancouver.

Challenges

Adoption of the new plan does not come without challenges for those developing property in the new UGAs.

Appeals. There will be one or two appeals to this plan brought by environmental interests. These appeals are likely to be limited to environmental issues that include the conversion of agricultural land for development. Clark County and Vancouver reached a last-minute settlement on a number of issues that precluded an appeal by the City of Vancouver.

Infrastructure. Neither Ridgefield nor La Center has sewer capacity or transmission-line capability to serve their newly designated UGAs. The possibility of constructing a regional sewer line from the Salmon Creek Treatment Plant to Ridgefield and La Center is becoming more likely with the financial cooperation of Clark County and the Clark Regional Sewer District.

Urban Holding. Not all pending designated urban growth areas can be developed even though the plan is adopted. All of this property must (1) have urban-level infrastructure services available and (2) be annexed to its adjacent city before development is allowed to proceed.

Impact Fees. School- and transportation-impact fees are skyrocketing. School-impact fees for residential homes could reach $8,000. Traffic-impact fees for those same homes will approach $7,000.

While the challenges will be many as southwest Washington grows, the new Growth Management Plan sets the pace for future development.

(Many thanks to Barbara Hatman from Clark County’s GIS office for her hard work and diligence in preparing these maps to Miller Nash’s specifications.)