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June 30, 2022

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Camas residents contest 122-home subdivision proposal

Opponents cite destruction of ‘vital’ Oregon white oak trees, concerns over stormwater runoff and traffic safety

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A proposal that would build 122 single-family homes near Green Mountain near Camas’ northern city border is drawing opposition from several Camas residents, Green Mountain neighbors and local “tree protectors.”

“Citizens in Camas have been telling you for years that we are tired of letting developers ruin our land and environment,” Camas resident Madeline Lyne wrote to city of Camas officials and planning staff.

Lennar Northwest, Inc., a Vancouver development company, has applied for a preliminary plat approval to subdivide a 37-acre parcel bordered by the Green Mountain Estates subdivision in northern Camas into 122 lots ranging in size from 7,200 to 12,000 square feet.

The proposed Camas Heights site, which is currently zoned for single-family residential development, has a few sticking points for the developer — including two wetlands, steep slopes and 10 Oregon white oak (also known as Garry oak) trees.

“We are primarily concerned with the impacts of the project on the Oregon white oaks and feel that the plan proposal does not adequately try to avoid and minimize the impacts to these vital species,” state Department of Fish and Wildlife habitat biologist Amaia Smith wrote. She recommended the developers explore alternate designs.

At a public hearing before Camas Hearings Examiner Joe Turner on May 4, others spoke in favor of saving more of the white oaks.

Christina Menetti — president of the nonprofit Garry Oak Coalition in Lakewood, which recently helped protect 90 native white oaks in that city — spoke in opposition to the Camas Heights subdivision during the May 4 hearing.

Menetti and others who spoke and wrote in favor of protecting the white oaks pointed out that the trees are extremely slow-growing and that the developer’s plan to replace 80 percent of the established trees on the Camas site with white oak seedlings means it will take another 150 years for those trees to grow to their full size.

The developer now plans to save two of the Oregon white oaks and will replace the other eight oaks at a 5-1 ratio in a 12,000-foot tract known as “Tract M.” City staff have asked the developer to investigate how many plantings Tract M can accommodate.

The white oaks’ preservation was not the only issue Camas residents had with the proposed development. At least two neighbors whose properties sit next to the proposed subdivision worried that the development would cause stormwater issues for neighbors and traffic problems for others in the Green Mountain area.

Tony Valasco testified that he worried about the developer’s stormwater plans, noting that other subdivisions in the area have had issues with draining water, with one subdivision having to rip out people’s fences to build a French drainage system to deal with overflowing stormwater.

“I’m not opposed to development, but I don’t think they know what they’re getting themselves into here,” Valasco said.

Others who testified in opposition to the subdivision development during the May 4 hearing said they also worried that added traffic on Northeast 28th Street would make a road that was, in their opinion, already hazardous even worse.

Turner is expected to make a decision on the proposed subdivision application by June 1. That decision can be appealed to Superior Court.

For more information about the project, visit tinyurl.com/yw5kmyzm.

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