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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Planning commission sticks with prior growth-plan decision

Vote of 5 to 1 rejects late bid by Madore; councilors to have final say Tuesday

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: November 19, 2015, 10:40pm

For the second time, Clark County’s Planning Commission voted down all components of the county’s growth plan that would allow for smaller lots.

After a three-hour meeting Thursday night, the commission voted 5 to 1 to maintain the decision it made during its September meeting to reject Alternative 4 and all components of Alternative 2 of the Clark County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update that would allow for upzoning of rural, agriculture and forest lots.

That means Councilor David Madore’s controversial land use plan, as well as the recently-introduced planning assumptions authored by the Republican councilor, did not gain the recommendation of the commission.

Commissioner Bill Wright said it is far too late in the process to consider reversing its previous decision.

“If you try to wrench the train off the tracks, there’s going to be hell to pay,” he said.

However, the final decision rests with the Clark County Council, which will hold a public hearing at its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday at the Public Service Center on 1300 Franklin St. to choose its preferred alternative. Though rare for a governing body to ignore the recommendations made by its planning commission, Councilor Tom Mielke, a Republican, signaled his support for Madore’s assumptions at a workshop earlier this month.

Madore introduced his controversial Alternative 4 earlier this year, and has since followed up with a new version of the land use plan as well as new planning assumptions he says will give the county a more accurate understanding of how many lots the zoning plans may create.

Under current planning assumptions, Alternative 1 could allow for the development of 7,073 new lots. Alternative 4 could create 12,401 new lots. But using Madore’s assumptions and calculations, Alternative 1 should only create 3,325 new lots, while Alternative 4 should create 6,638 new lots.

Though county planning staff said they could not corroborate the data that led Madore to those conclusions, the councilor made one last testimony before the Planning Commission to urge them to approve his assumptions. Madore echoed his previous assertions that there is a desperate need to “shine a light” on the county’s policy assumptions.

“Those parameters are parameters that should be set by policy, and they establish the facts,” Madore said.

The Clark County council unanimously approved its assumptions most recently in April of this year. That resolution was an update of previous planning assumptions adopted in June 2014, updated for a population increase of about 15,000 requested by Clark County’s cities.

Madore’s work has been lauded by rural property owners who say their property rights were stolen from them with the adoption of Washington’s Growth Management Act in 1992. Among them is Susan Rasmussen, president of rural property rights group Clark County Citizens United, who has testified dozens of times in support of Alternative 4.

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Rasmussen said Thursday night that the mission of planning staff is to “further enable the dominance and advance the agendas of the cities,” and that rejection of Alternative 4 will “degrade rural culture for generations to come.”

But Madore was also lambasted by commenters who accused him of failing to follow due process in the development of Alternative 4 and his new planning assumptions.

Local land use attorney David McDonald, who represents conservation group Friends of Clark County, contested Madore’s claims that the planning assumptions have not faced public scrutiny, saying they have been the subject of countless resolutions and reviews since 1994.

“This is about one man telling the rest of the community that his way is right,” McDonald said. “Reject it.”

Former Democratic Clark County Commissioner Betty Sue Morris, who helped develop multiple growth plan updates during her nearly 13 years on the board, called Madore’s actions “egregious.”

“You are under no obligation to even consider the most recent alternative,” Morris said. “Madore’s most recent changes are totally inappropriate and ridiculously late in the process.”

Columbian Education Reporter