Camas city planners are mulling over one of the largest development proposals in the city’s history, set for the Green Mountain Golf Course, and not everyone in the area is happy about it.
A growing number of nearby residents are throwing up their arms in protest at the idea of losing the rural environment that attracted them to the area to begin with. Plans to redevelop the land for new housing and commercial space have been in the works for years, but many residents are complaining that they only recently learned the specifics and said that the project is ill-conceived.
The city annexed the Green Mountain land into its urban growth boundary in 2007, seeing the golf course as a prime location for commercial and residential growth. Last winter, Mayor Scott Higgins signed an agreement with Green Mountain LLC for a 283-acre mixed commercial-residential development with 1,300 lots for new houses and apartments or condos on the property.
Included in the agreement are plans for 8.8 acres of commercial space for retail or office buildings and other space set aside for new parks and trails. The deal also includes a caveat that could pave the way for even more new housing, Community Development Director Phil Bourquin said.
“If they increase the commercial acreage, then we’ll increase the (residential) development 100 units,” Bourquin said.
Just east of the property, another developer is working on a separate plan to build 400 single-family homes, and along the north shore of Lacamas Lake construction recently began on a 27-lot subdivision.
Altogether, the projects mean Camas is poised to welcome several thousand new residents in the next decade to the largely undeveloped north side of the city. Today, Camas is home to about 22,000 people, but officials envision that number ballooning to 34,000 in the next 20 years.
The prospects are disappointing for people like Michelle Gregory, who moved to the area not only for Camas’ high-rated schools but the peace and quiet near the Green Mountain Golf Course.
“The whole reason we bought our house and moved from Southeast Portland was to get away from this,” Gregory said. “The issue is it’s not a small development. It’s large and there’s no infrastructure in place to support it.”
Gregory and other opponents of the project argue that the plans fail to add enough roads and new lanes to handle the influx in traffic. And some have taken issue with the plans to build an above-ground gravity piping sewage system servicing the land. As it stands, the Green Mountain area has no public sanitary sewer system.
The city recently posted notifications about the proposal’s first phase — 201 single detached residential lots on about 51 acres — and the Camas Planning Commission held a public hearing on that portion of the project last month. Per the city’s standard procedure, anyone living within 300 feet of the property also was notified, Bourquin said.
After hearing lots of criticism from nearby residents, Green Mountain LLC asked the planning commission to have a second public hearing, which is set for 7 p.m. today at Camas City Hall. Since the first hearing, the group has begun circulating a petition asking the city to halt the project. So far, about 200 people have signed it.
Tracey Kasten Heil, who owns a farm in the area, said not all the petitioners are against developing the area. They just demand a plan with more infrastructure to support the growth, Kasten Heil said.
“We understand that development is going to happen,” she said. “I’m definitely not anti-development. Anything that’s being built should result in an increase in quality of life, not a decrease in quality of life.”
Following today’s hearing, the planning commission will make a recommendation on the project to the Camas City Council, which is responsible for its final approval or rejection. Bourquin anticipates the council will make a decision by July 6.