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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Dec. 7, 2023

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Growth key issue in Woodland City Council race

Candidates also focus on traffic, homelessness, jobs

By , Columbian Staff Writer

Growth was a much-discussed topic around Woodland this past year, as the city’s planning commissioners and councilors looked at rezoning certain parts of the city or annexing surrounding land into city limits.

Ultimately, councilors decided to rezone some land, but not expand the city’s urban growth boundary, something that concerned many residents living in those areas.

It’s also something on the mind of those running for two seats on the Woodland City Council in the November election.

DeeAnna Holland will face off against Scott Peabody for an open seat at Position 5; Councilor Susan Humbyrd opted not to run for re-election. Councilor Karl Chapman will seek re-election at Position 4 against Keith Bellisle. The Columbian sent the same questionnaire about issues facing Woodland to all candidates, and all except for Chapman responded.

Position 5

Peabody agreed with the council’s decision to slow down on annexation efforts while looking into improvements at Exit 21 on Interstate 5.

“The city should focus on the traffic flow problem in Woodland,” he said. “It is now really bad and will get much worse. I am glad the city put a hold on the annexation endeavor for now to try and figure out the traffic flow. I know several times to get off the Exit 21 northbound, I’ve had to sit on the active freeway to wait my turn. This is not a very good feeling.”

Holland said she supported the sixth option the planning commission was looking at for growth, in which the city will look at the practical implication of growth within the Woodland Bottoms, including planning for growth impacts that occur in Cowlitz County.

“I’m not sure why there is so much interest in the Bottoms, when there is a lot of development happening outside city limits on Lewis River Road, but I do know that the decisions made now will impact Woodland for years to come,” she said. “This is the perfect time to actually plan for growth, not just react to it. The thing that frightens most of us is that with more new home development comes more traffic, more crime and the eventual ask for larger schools. Realistically, those of us that live here should be directing how we move forward.”

Earlier this year, the council tabled discussions on two ordinances that would limit when and where people can camp in the city and crack down on panhandling. Both are expected to come back before council at some time this year.

Holland said that “homelessness is an uncomfortable topic in our region,” and one she knows quite a bit about. She is the board president of Woodland Action Center, a food bank and thrift store that works with people in need in Clark and Cowlitz counties.

“Where Woodland is different than other areas is that we do not have shelter available for folks experiencing homelessness in our community,” she said. “(The camping ordinance) is poorly crafted and doesn’t take into consideration the recent Ninth Circuit Court decision, which could bring litigation upon the city, so I think we can do better.”

Peabody said he feels for those experiencing homelessness, but worries that if the city does more to take care of that population, more people will come to Woodland.

“I am supportive of the private groups that support the homeless and their families,” he said. “My church sponsors a food bank supporting the La Center, Amboy and Woodland areas. I also know several other agencies and churches also support the homeless.”

As for other issues, Holland said she will support the levy lid lift to fund law enforcement personnel and equipment.

“It saddens me that properly staffing our police department is even an issue when funding public safety is part of the city budget process,” she said. “A similarly worded proposal was on the ballot in 2017 and failed by less than 20 votes, and Woodlanders are being asked again to make the tough decision of adding to their tax burden. I support the levy lid lift because it’s the least I can do as a private citizen to support the folks that protect and serve our community.”

Peabody said he is concerned with the kind of companies the Port of Woodland is seeking.

“They need to go after companies like Amazon and Costco, for an example, and make it attractive for them to come to Woodland,” he said. “This will help the city’s tax base and also create more jobs.”

Position 4

Bellisle also thinks the city should focus on “infrastructure improvements that facilitate both residential and business development,” and while that is going on, city leaders should spend time on developing a long-term plan.

On the issue of homelessness, he said the city can serve everyone better.

“We must see a perspective that many won’t be comfortable with,” Bellisle said. “We can do more. You either get it, don’t get it or don’t care.”

He also said he is supporting the levy lid lift, although he thinks “future funding needs to be sourced more creatively.” Bellisle also said “things down by the river will be worth watching with lands transitioning ownership and some interest in an updated public area and boat launch.”

In the voters’ pamphlet, Chapman said he wants to be re-elected to bring Woodland to the forefront of industrial growth in Cowlitz County, which will bring good-paying jobs to the community.

Karl Chapman, Position 4.
Karl Chapman, Position 4. Photo

Candidate Bios

Position 4

Keith Bellisle

Age: 50

Public offices held: None.

Occupation: Instructor, entertainment, sales.

Karl Chapman

Age: Not submitted.

Public offices held: Current Woodland councilor.

Occupation: Not submitted.

Position 5

DeeAnna L. Holland

Age: 49

Public offices held: None.

Occupation: Screenprinting and embroidery.

Scott Peabody

Age: 63

Public offices held: Civil service commissioner chairman.

Occupation: Safety director.

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Columbian Staff Writer