CAMAS -- In a packed chamber Tuesday, the Camas City Council unanimously approved a massive and controversial development project that promises a mix of new residential, commercial and industrial building.
Sides for and against the Lacamas Northshore project, 460 acres near Lacamas Lake, turned out to a council meeting to voice their opinions on a project that could become Clark County's largest unified building project in more than 20 years.
Tuesday's decision, which approved an amended development agreement with a coalition of 12 property owners who hold stakes in the project, was a necessary step in moving development along. The agreement may be adopted at the next city council meeting, Sept. 16.
Though the project has navigated environmental reviews and court vetting, some people came to the meeting to express apprehensions about it. The top concerns were tied to the scope of the project, which calls for entirely new development in a wooded area, and its proximity to Grove Field Airport.
Mary Vogel, a Portland-based urban planner, said she was happy there was a master plan for the development rather than a "helter skelter" approach to building. Nonetheless, she said, the city could do more to emphasize in-fill development to meet the needs of younger residents.
"The generation currently moving into housing, millennials, are the most urban cohort since World War II," Vogel said. "They're the ones who might want to move to downtown Camas."
Jim Metzger, a Camas pilot, said he was concerned about how close the development would be to the airfield and how it could affect pilots on approach. He offered to fly the councilors above the Lacamas Northshore parcels to give them a pilot's-eye view of the project.
Heart of growth plans
Proponents of the project, meanwhile, said it would be good for Camas' growth.
"This has been a vetted project, and a great opportunity for the city," said Kim Logan, a representative for Lacamas Northshore's second-largest ownership group, the Mills family.
The city also agrees that the project could be at the heart of its growth plans.
About 313 acres of the property has been set aside for industrial development.
How that development might take shape is unclear, however. Land currently owned by the Johnston Dairy could be transformed
into a commerce park with one anchor tenant, or it could be split up.
Schools, trails and other amenities are expected to take root around the properties as they develop. The city has discussed the possibility of new schools with the Camas School District.
The city council also held a hearing Tuesday on amendments to the city's 2013 comprehensive plan. Beginning next year, the city will undergo a two-year update to the plan, a requirement of the state's Growth Management Act.
The city annexed the Lacamas Northshore land in 2008, in part to help the city reach its population target of 34,800 over 20 years. If Camas' population increases as projected, it will need approximately 5,710 additional dwelling units, the city estimates.