Port of Camas-Washougal preps industrial park

Zoning change sought for portion of Steigerwald Commerce Center; existing tenant expanding

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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As the Port of Camas-Washougal continues to prepare one of the region's largest shovel-ready properties for economic development, it is requesting a rezone for future industrial growth and welcoming the expansion of an existing tenant.

The port wants Clark County government to rezone just under 20 acres on the south side of the port's industrial, master-planned 120-acre Steigerwald Commerce Center from "parks-open space" to "heavy industrial."

The parcel already is in the county's urban growth boundary, David Ripp, the port's executive director, said Thursday. Adjusting the tract's zoning, a yearlong process, is the logical next step in setting up the parcel, along with the rest of the Steigerwald site, for future economic growth, he said.

Ripp said an economic analysis of the Steigerwald property's potential showed it could reach full build-out in 15 to 20 years. However, he said, "we're getting inundated with phone calls now, and we're showing the property."

Meanwhile, construction is underway on the Steigerwald property's first building, a 21,600-square-foot project situated on roughly 2 acres. It will enable longtime port tenant Foods in Season, a gourmet fresh food supplier, to relocate from an existing port property and to expand its operations. The company, which will lease its new space from the port, is expected to set up shop there this spring.

The Foods in Season expansion and rezoning proposal are part of the port's overall effort to attract employers to the Steigerwald property, which the port hopes will one day support as many as 400 jobs. The port says it will lease or sell tracts at the site. The port's economic development effort is part of a larger ongoing attempt by regional jobs promoters, including the Columbia River Economic Development Council, to increase Clark County's inventory of employment lands.

Ripp said the Steigerwald property is capable of supporting manufacturing and warehouse uses, and potentially a campus-style business park. About 10 lots at the property are currently marketable.

"All of the infrastructure is in place," Ripp said. "You just need to tie into it."

The port has decided its proposed zoning designation isn't likely to generate major adverse impacts to land, air and water. As a result, the port says, it won't need to produce an environmental impact statement. The public has until Jan. 31 to submit written comments to the port about its zoning proposal and its "determination of non-significance" under Washington state's Environmental Policy Act.

The Clark County Planning Commission is expected to examine the port's proposed zoning change this spring. The Board of Clark County Commissioners has the final say over the port's request. Commissioners are expected to weigh in on it sometime this fall.

Meanwhile, Foods in Season's planned relocation from its current 13,500-square-foot main building at a different port site to the new 21,600-square-foot complex marks an opportunity for the family business to grow.

The company's product lines include shipments of sustainably harvested fish to high-end restaurants and grocery stores across the country. Ripp said the company, which currently employs about 25 people, is expected to eventually add 10 jobs at its new site at Steigerwald.