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News / Clark County News

In Camas, upset over big plans to develop

Planning Commission meeting is packed by residents with opinions

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter
Published: June 17, 2015, 12:00am

CAMAS — Dozens jammed into a Camas Planning Commission hearing Tuesday night to take a stand against one of the largest development proposals in the city’s history.

On the table is a contentious plan from Green Mountain LLC to redevelop the Green Mountain Golf Course into a vast mixed commercial-residential area. It’s a project that poses a drastic lifestyle shift for the many who moved near the golf course for the peace and quiet of a rural setting.

As of The Columbian’s press time, the commissioners had not made a decision about whether to recommend that the Camas City Council approve the first portion of the project — a 201-lot area for new housing on about 51 acres.

Overall, the project includes plans for 1,300 to 1,400 new residential lots for houses and apartments or condos, and 8.8 acres of commercial space for retail and offices on a 283-acre site now occupied by the golf course. To the east of Green Mountain, another developer plans to build a 400-house subdivision, and dozens more new houses are set to be built along the north shore of Lacamas Lake in a separate project.

All together, the proposals mean the largely rural and undeveloped northern section of Camas would welcome thousands of new residents in the next decade. While city planning officials have long had that vision in mind, it’s a far cry from what many small-farm owners and other residents in the area want.

Mark Martin, who’s leading the movement against the development, said Tuesday night that the city already has more than 20 residential and commercial construction projects underway this year. But he said officials have failed to widen roads to handle the growth, and he contends the Green Mountain project would worsen that trend.

“This massive growth has received minimal infrastructure improvements by the city,” Martin said. He added that the proposal is defined by “a ‘build now, worry about infrastructure later’ attitude.”

For some in the area, the idea of redeveloping the golf course isn’t a surprise, but they see the proposal’s provisions for sewage and traffic mitigation as incomplete and unfit for the location.

City leaders have planned to redevelop Green Mountain for several years, but many living in the area only recently learned about the proposal from notices posted on the property and at a few downtown locations. The city annexed the land into its urban growth boundary eight years ago, eyeing the golf course as the best location for new growth down the road.

The commissioners held an initial hearing last month on the project’s first phase. Later they decided to reopen the hearing for Tuesday night after finding a mistake printed on a notification posted on the Green Mountain property.

In the past few weeks, opponents have gathered more than 255 signatures on a petition demanding that the city reconsider the plan. Several testifying at Tuesday’s meeting said the development would sully Camas’ small town appeal and eventually turn it into a much louder, more crowded city.

While the traffic influx appears to be the top concern among opponents, some also are worried about whether local schools will be able to handle the enrollment growth.

Today, Camas has a population of about 22,000. City planners estimate it will swell to 34,000 in the next two decades, and that growth will primarily be in the north.

City Planner Manager Robert Maul said he and other city leaders are working with the Camas and Evergreen school districts to plan for the growth 20 years out.

“We recognize that when you have urban development in an area next to rural, there is conflict,” Maul said during the meeting. “Overall, this is a 15-year build out, plus.”

He added that Camas’ population and commerce growth depends on market conditions, and there’s no telling how that will change in the coming years.

Ultimately, the decision on the plan is up to the Camas City Council, which would likely take up the first phase of the project next month.

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