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Friday, September 22, 2023
Sept. 22, 2023

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Clark County council delays decision on growth plan

Large crowd turns out to speak for, against Madore's Alternative 4

By , Columbian Education Reporter
2 Photos
The Clark County council, from left, Jeanne Stewart, Julie Olson, Chair Marc Boldt, David Madore and Tom Mielke.
The Clark County council, from left, Jeanne Stewart, Julie Olson, Chair Marc Boldt, David Madore and Tom Mielke. Photo Gallery

As its April 30 deadline to submit its Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update to the state looms ever closer, the Clark County council once again delayed a decision on the zoning component of its 20-year growth plan.

The council set out Tuesday morning to reconsider the preferred alternative to its growth plan, which will set zoning policy throughout unincorporated Clark County. But after hearing five hours of public testimony — in which many of the same, familiar faces reiterated what they’ve been saying for over a year — the council moved to continue the hearing to next week.

The packed audience was divided on the most controversial proposal at hand: Republican Councilor David Madore’s Alternative 4, which was twice rejected by the county Planning Commission but approved by the council as a part of its preferred alternative.

The zoning proposal, hailed by some rural residents as restoring rural property rights limited under the Growth Management Act, would shrink the minimum allowed lot sizes in rural areas. A draft environmental impact statement analyzing an older version of Alternative 4 estimates it could create about 5,300 additional lots in Clark County, putting a strain on natural and environmental resources. In some cases, the additional development allowed under Alternative 4 could be cost-prohibitive to Clark County, according to the environmental report.

Though Madore has continued to fight for his alternative, aided by Republican Councilor Tom Mielke, his fellow councilors have signaled that they want to reconsider that proposal. Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Julie Olson, Republicans, and Chair Marc Boldt, no party preference, have questioned whether that proposal is viable.

The county cannot move forward on the remaining components of that plan — the final environmental impact statement and capital facilities plan which dictates how the county plans to pay for its growth — until a preferred alternative is selected, Community Planning Director Oliver Orjiako said.

“We are stuck,” Orjiako said. “We need to move forward to complete the comp plan update.”

Proponents of the plan waved signs reading “4” in bold print, cheering and clapping as supporters spoke in favor of the plan.

Carol Levanen, executive secretary of land-use group Clark County Citizens United, urged the council to adopt Alternative 4, saying it is the only alternative that complies with the Growth Management Act.

“CCCU wants to support the county on land-use decisions, but we cannot support the economic ruin of rural and resource landowners for the sake of Sunday drivers and irrational cities.”

Alina McElveny, who spoke to the council with a sign reading “I support Alt 4” pinned to her chest, told the council about her goals to provide her children land on their property, a long-running timber farm in rural Clark County.

“The time is now,” she said. “Being retired and aging and aware of our own mortality, we want to set up our affairs so our adult children could begin helping us manage the timber and eventually build homes or retirement cottages on their own individual properties.”

Opponents of the plan included nearly all of Clark County’s cities, which worry smaller parcel sizes immediately outside city borders could inhibit business growth.

Local land-use attorney Steve Horenstein said that while he supports the desires of rural property owners, Alternative 4 will not hold up under the Growth Management Act, which requires that growth be centered in urban areas and that the county is able to pay for its planned growth. Neither can happen under Alternative 4, he said.

“I’m saddened by the path that (county council) leadership has taken them down because it’s a huge distraction,” he said.

Sue Marshall, owner of Baurs Corner Farm in Ridgefield, told the coucil she does not want her 20-acre property upzoned to 10-acre parcels, as Alterative 4 would allow.

“Further parcelization threatens a long-term viability of agriculture on some of the best soils in the state,” she said.

The Clark County council is slated to deliberate on its preferred alternative at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St., Vancouver.

Columbian Education Reporter