Clark County plans to take a closer look in the coming months at the hundreds of properties it owns, hoping to get a clearer picture of its inventory and what each site is used for.
The process will help the county decide which parcels are worth holding on to — and which ones aren’t, said Acting County Manager Mark McCauley.
“Essentially, we’ve just got to validate, ‘Why do we have it? What purpose do we have for it?’ ” McCauley said.
That’s no small task. The county owns a total of 1,278 properties scattered across all corners of Clark County. They include everything from parks and public buildings to stormwater facilities and conservation areas. Others serve no practical purpose, such as small slivers of land that are simply unused rights of way along county roads. Even those require maintenance such as mowing and weed control.
In those cases, the county may try to sell the parcel to the neighboring property owner, McCauley said. But that’s a tough sell to residents who have little incentive to buy it, he said.
The ultimate goal is to make sure land is being put to its best use, McCauley said, and, if possible, return it to private ownership to generate tax revenue for the county.
“We’re stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars,” McCauley said. “If we’re holding property that we shouldn’t be holding, we ought to get rid of it.”
McCauley said he expects his staff and Clark County councilors to review county-owned properties in batches during the coming months. Eventually, each one will be checked off the list once leaders determine its best use, he said. And some conversations will be short: For example, don’t expect the Clark County Courthouse to be put for sale any time soon.
One question mark is the Dolle Building, a two-story office building at 500 W. Eighth St. in downtown Vancouver that the county has owned for nearly two decades. The county currently leases most of the building to several tenants. County Councilor Tom Mielke has stressed his desire to make sure the building is properly utilized.
The county will evaluate the building, which may have potential for redevelopment, McCauley said. Whether the county keeps or sells the building remains to be seen, he said. Revenue from the Dolle Building now goes toward maintenance and paying down debt on the Clark County Public Service Center.
County councilors have generally expressed support for the idea of reviewing its properties and possibly selling some. At a board time meeting earlier this year, Councilor David Madore said leaders should address the issue if the county is “sitting on property that’s doing nobody any good, that we don’t know about, or that could be sold.”
He added: “We all have the fiduciary responsibility to make sure that we’re financially smart.”
Among the county’s other notable properties are Camp Bonneville, the former military firing range that’s now undergoing a major cleanup effort, much of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, the Clark County Fairgrounds complex and amphitheater. The county also owns the Tri-Mountain Golf Course near Ridgefield.
McCauley said he hopes to complete the review of county-owned properties this year.
“We have quite a bit of real estate,” he said.