The Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) recently published an “Employment Lands Study” white paper, summarizing the most sophisticated and detailed study to date addressing the challenges associated with ensuring a sufficient long-term supply of land available for jobs in our community.
This two-part project involved a study of more than 56 sites available for employment (20 acres or larger) followed by a detailed site assessment of five sites. The overall study, looks in some detail at infrastructure needed to serve available industrial sites and funding tools to build that infrastructure. The study also reviews planning and environmental tools that will facilitate developing land for jobs in our community.
CREDC’s Lands for Jobs Committee concluded its work by developing a series of 11 recommendations that support the long-term availability of land for employment sites in Clark County. Among those recommendations are several that encourage the identification of additional land for jobs in Clark County and its cities. As the CREDC study indicates, adding to the existing supply of employment land is critical to long-term job growth and prosperity in our community.
The CREDC study identifies industrial land available today. Maintaining the availability of this additional land for employment uses can occur in three ways:
• Local governments should ensure that land currently zoned for employment purposes including industrial and office use should remain so and not re-designate for commercial or residential use;
• The conversion of land zoned for other than employment use to zones allowing for job creation should be considered where appropriate;
• Urban growth boundaries should be expanded for employment land in locations that infrastructure can be readily provided.
Looking more broadly, CREDC has noted that “In the Greater Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan region, only 15 employment-zoned parcels of 50-99 acres remain, five of which are located in Clark County. For sites 100 acres or larger, only 11 sites exist, seven of which are in Clark County. With these constraints, options are limited for siting major projects in our region.”
This study will be updated periodically. Urban growth boundary expansion will over the long term provide the most opportunity to provide additional land for job creation. As Clark County’s supply of residential land dwindles quickly, there is talk of expanding urban growth boundaries in the near future to accommodate residential growth. These boundary expansions should also include the addition of employment land in areas where new residential development will occur in order to minimize impacts to transportation systems by encouraging employees to live near their places of employment.
In the face of inevitable and environmental challenges to such expansions, it is critical that our elected officials be educated as to the need for more land for jobs and that there is support for efforts to expand urban growth boundaries.
Image by City of Vancouver.