Businesses urged to ponder area's future

County growth plan adopted in 1994 due to be updated

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
photoOliver Orjiako

Most businesses are busy just trying to figure out growth from one quarter to the next, with the big picture somewhere out in the hinterland.

But a top Clark County planning official reminded business folks at a Thursday luncheon that it's time, once again, to revisit the community's comprehensive growth plan adopted in 1994 to comply with the state's Growth Management Act. The plan needs to be updated by June 30, 2016, said Oliver Orjiako, the county's director of community planning. He was keynote speaker at the lunch sponsored by the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce and held at the Camas Meadows Golf Course.

"You can imagine after 20 years, the question is, are we going in the right direction," Orjiako asked the group of about 50 business people at the lunchtime gathering.

His visit was to provide background information and to get business leaders thinking now about how their cities want to move forward, especially in their planning for economic development.

"This is the beginning of the conversation," said Orjiako, who joined the Clark County Planning Department in 1989 and has been involved in the county's comprehensive growth management plan since its inception.

Orjiako said Clark County's population has doubled since 1993, when local stakeholders first set up the framework for how growth

should occur. He said the plan, which mapped out urban growth boundaries, allowed for land to cover three objectives — community, environment and transportation.

The original urban growth boundaries were enlarged in 2004 by 56 acres with a primary focus on jobs, Orjiako said.

An update in 2007 expanded the boundaries by another 12,000 acres, 34 percent of which was land for jobs, he said.

"Here we are in 2012, getting ready to update it again," said Orjiako, who holds a Ph.D. in urban studies and a masters degree in urban and regional planning.

He asked his audience to think about how things have changed since 1993 and showed a Power Point slide of a gas-guzzling vehicle from the era compared with a modern-day electric car. The next set of photos compared a modern smart phone with a large 1990s mobile phone that looked like a walkie-talkie with a long antenna.

"You and I have changed, too," Orjiako said, adding that the next round of comprehensive planning would likely focus more heavily on the county's economy.

He added that the state's Office of Financial Management estimates Clark County's population could grow to as high 700,000 by 2040. It was estimated at around 428,000 in 2011.

At least one attendee of the luncheon was encouraged by the Orjiako's talk.

"I'm really happy to see the county out and actively seeking input," said Jamie Howsley, a land-use attorney with Jordan Ramis PC in Vancouver who counts among his clients the 600-member Building Industry Association of Clark County.

"Now is an important time to check in and see whether the vision we had 20 years ago is still germane to today," he said.