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March 23, 2023

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Clark County adopts 20-year growth plan

Madore tries - and fails - to restore Alternative 4 to land-use program

By , Columbian Education Reporter
5 Photos
The Clark County council deliberates in June at the Public Service Center in Vancouver during its final hearing on a Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update.
The Clark County council deliberates in June at the Public Service Center in Vancouver during its final hearing on a Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

After a marathon meeting Tuesday, the Clark County council ended three years of work by adopting its 20-year growth plan update.

The final plan, which the council considered in a seven-hour hearing, includes smaller lot sizes in rural Clark County, expands the urban growth areas of some of the county’s cities and raises some school impact fees.

The lengthy process came without surprises, but nonetheless felt like Republican Councilor David Madore’s last stand for Alternative 4. Madore first proposed that controversial zoning alternative, which would have allowed for even smaller lots across rural Clark County, about a year ago, but the Clark County council rejected the plan at a meeting earlier this year.

“What this plan does is it unnecessarily imposes burdensome restrictions on the citizens,” Madore said of the final growth plan update. “It adds extra regulation, extra red tape, it strips citizens of the private property rights they thought they had.”

Madore’s only ally on the council, Republican Tom Mielke, said the comprehensive plan imposes too many restrictions on development.

“Clark County seems to have the chains on it,” Mielke said. “We seem to be lacking in moving forward, providing jobs and creating affordable housing.”

As the council considered items that would reduce parcel sizes for agriculture, forest and rural properties, Madore cycled through the same series of questions and suggestions. Each time, he asked if other counties allow for smaller lots, followed by a motion to allow the county to offer smaller lots.

Madore’s continued line of questioning frustrated Republican Councilor Julie Olson, who at one point called his continued pestering as though he’d never seen the material before “offensive.”

Making last appeal

The most vocal supporters of Alternative 4, Susan Rasmussen and Carol Levanen, also made their last appeal to allow for smaller lot sizes in rural Clark County. The leaders of Clark County Citizens United, an organization representing some rural property owners, have been testifying to the Clark County council at nearly all of the council’s meetings for more than a year.

Levanen, executive secretary of the organization, echoed her frequent talking points, saying Clark County planning staff “erroneously” used a “biased, unauthorized formula” to inflate the impact that Alternative 4 would have had on rural areas.

“History is repeating itself as Clark County plans for the future,” Levanen said.

Regardless, Madore’s effort to restore parts of Alternative 4 to the comprehensive plan failed. The council voted 3-2 to reject each of his amendments, and rejected a motion Madore made to restore Alternative 4 in its entirety to the plan.

Olson pledged to revisit rural zoning issues, suggesting convening a rural lands task force, researching options for transfer of development rights or giving greater flexibility to property owners who have been in Clark County prior to the 1994 adoption of the state Growth Management Act.

“This isn’t going to be the end of conversations as it relates to rural landowners,” Olson said.

The Clark County Council will adopt an ordinance ratifying its decisions at June 28’s hearing in advance of sending the plan to the state Department of Commerce. The plan could, however, be legally challenged.

Columbian Education Reporter