Clark County officials are trying to envision just how large the county will be by 2045, and they’re seeking the public’s help as they do it.
The population numbers are a crucial early step in updating the county’s Comprehensive Growth Plan, which is due to the state by June 2025.
The state Office of Financial Management has given three possible estimates for the county’s growth by 2045: 791,809 on the high end, 698,416 as a midrange guess and 576,151 on the low end.
According to state law, the middle range represents the most likely estimate of a county’s population, but the decision on which estimate to accept is up to the Clark County Council.
The council will hold a public hearing on the 2045 population projection beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Public Service Center sixth-floor hearing room at 1300 Franklin St., Vancouver. Following a presentation and staff report, public comment on the proposed population numbers will be accepted.
Two of the council’s newest members, District 5 Councilor Sue Marshall and District 1 Councilor Glen Yung, said they are ready to get to work on the update.
“Multiple, multiple components will be addressed over the years,” Marshall said during a recent interview with The Columbian on CVTV.
The upcoming growth plan update and a desire to protect the county’s rural and agricultural lands played a large role in her decision to run for the council seat, Marshall said.
“Because my district is largely rural — I think it’s geographically about half of the county — there are some issues that the rural communities have that I don’t think the other districts experience. … I have a family farm and live in a rural community,” she said.
For Yung, getting the public interested and engaged — which he admits can be challenging — is also an important first step. He said the county’s growth plan is and should be important to every county resident. Yung said he tries to look for different ways to engage communities, like working with neighborhood associations and community leaders.
“The only thing that you can do is everything that you can do. That is what it amounts to. You reach out in every single way you possibly can and you do it in earnest, with meaning behind it and not just to check a box off,” he said.
Yung noted that updates being made now will set the standards for what, when and where projects are developed in the future. He said changes made to the growth plan in the past haven’t always turned out well.
“The majority of the problems we are dealing with as a council … where citizens are upset and frustrated and trying to get some changes made … come from exposed flaws with the comp plan itself,” Yung said. “We don’t have properties zoned the right way in the right places.”
One example of this, Yung said, would be Knife River Corp.’s proposed cement plant, which was originally planned for a parcel on Northeast 101st Street that neighbors several residential properties. While the county council has recently discussed the need to make better use of its rail corridor, property records show that parcel is the only property in the county designated as Rail Industrial zoning.
While Yung may be new to the council and county government, he says he’s already identified what he thinks will be the biggest challenges to updating the growth plan. He said the affordable housing crisis tops that list, especially with previous legislative requirements already passed and new ones likely to be added this session.
Yung said updating the growth plan underscores the council’s struggle with competing uses for land.
“Land is finite. We only have so much of it, and we all want to keep Clark County as green as we possibly can and undisturbed as we possibly can. At the same time, we need to be able to make sure people have homes that they can live in, that there’s jobs that support people who live here and there’s a transportation system that works properly,” Yung said.
Marshall said it’s important to consider everyone’s needs when it comes to balancing land use planning and growth. She said while her district may have a lot of rural lands, she also wants to do what’s best for the county’s more urban areas, which can be a tough balancing act.
“We can run out of land. That’s a possibility,” Marshall said. “I do think, often, things are framed as rural versus urban, but we really need to rely on each other. We’re all in this community together.”
For more information and updates on the comprehensive plan update, go to https://clark.wa.gov/community-planning/comprehensive-growth-management-plan.