Growth challenges Battle Ground

City faces tight budget as it aims to address community’s needs

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 

Battle Ground

Population: 17,920

Must See: Battle Ground Lake State Park, skate park, annual Harvest Days.

Website: http://www.cityofbg.org

photoClick to enlarge

After a decade of big-time expansion — the city’s population has nearly doubled since 2000, going from 9,300 in that year to 17,920 at the beginning of 2013 — Battle Ground has staked a sizable chunk of money building infrastructure so it can continue to bolster its tax base, with mixed results.

Namely, there’s the $4.8 million Southwest Scotton Way project, which opened in December.

That project will create a new east-west corridor from Southwest 20th Avenue to state Highway 503. The project is intended to reduce traffic on Main Street and Southwest Eaton Boulevard.

What does that mean for the city? When it was announced, officials estimated the Southwest Scotton Way project would create as many as 700 jobs during its construction phase and attract businesses that would bring hundreds of permanent jobs to the area.

But some of those jobs may come from a controversial source. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced in October 2012 that it planned to build a 154,000-square-foot Walmart store as part of the Mill Creek Town Center retail complex, which will be located at the northwest corner of Southwest Scotton Way and state Highway 503.

Crews are expected to break ground on the development this year.

When it was announced last year, the project didn’t sit well with some Battle Ground residents. Shortly after the project was announced, two separate petitions began circulating online to voice opposition to the plan and to Walmart in general. The petitions will probably be for naught, though, as the store is slated to open in 2014.

Once developed, the Mill Creek Town Center retail complex will join Battle Ground Village, a 21-acre mixed-use development at Southeast Rasmussen Boulevard and Southeast Commerce Avenue. That development opened in 2010.

Despite the move toward commercial development, the city remains in a tight position financially.

Like many Clark County communities, Battle Ground went through a building boom in the early 2000s.

When the recession hit in 2008, new construction dried up, as did home loans. The city has struggled financially since then, despite annexing 98 acres southwest of the city. The annexation added 117 new residents to the city limits.

Money remains an issue. When it passed its biennium budget at the end of 2012, the city ended up laying off three staff members. The city could further reduce programs and services at the city in 2013 as a result of losing the staffers, city officials have said.

Still, in recent years, the city has worked to build more resources for residents.

In 2007, the city built a 25,000-square-foot skate park, which draws visitors from around the region. A community event center followed in 2008.

The city also continues to work on the Battle Ground Mitigation Project, which will create around 60 acres of wetland habitat in the upper Mill Creek sub-basin.