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News / Business / Clark County Business

Vancouver officials rethink Section 30 plan, pushing for more multifamily housing

Square mile in east Vancouver originally envisioned as area like Columbia Tech Center

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 26, 2024, 7:56pm
3 Photos
On Monday, the Vancouver City Council held a workshop about Section 30 in east Vancouver. City staff propose allowing more mixed-use development than is currently allowed.
On Monday, the Vancouver City Council held a workshop about Section 30 in east Vancouver. City staff propose allowing more mixed-use development than is currently allowed. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Officials envisioned a square mile in east Vancouver known as Section 30 evolving into a mixed-use haven with places to live, work and recreate, much like nearby Columbia Tech Center. But some property owners there have other plans.

That’s why the city council is considering incentives to convince property owners not to build land-intensive detached single-family houses, large warehouses or self-storage units.

“One of the conclusions we’re coming to is that there is a low likelihood of future high-density job development in Section 30,” Vancouver Economic Development Director Patrick Quinton told the council on Monday.

The city annexed the rock mining property on the northwest corner of 192nd Avenue and First Street in 2008. At the time, city officials struck pre-annexation agreements with property owners that allowed existing uses, like mining, to continue. In 2009, the city council adopted a plan for Section 30 that sought a mix of commercial, light industrial and residential zoning.

However, the pre-annexation agreements — which are set to expire in June 2026 — allow for properties to be developed as large warehouses, self-storage warehouses and detached single-family residences, uses not part of the plan for Section 30. According to a city staff presentation, 39 percent, or 179 acres, of Section 30 could be developed with uses allowed by the first agreements, but not under the later Section 30 plan.

City staff propose extending the pre-annexation agreements until 2027 and letting those property owners build more multifamily housing than is currently allowed. In exchange, the property owners would forgo the types of developments city staff want to avoid.

Additionally, the added time may allow for market conditions to settle and potentially make the city’s Section 30 vision more appealing to the property owners.

“We’re in the moment where the office market financing has basically collapsed and the nature of job location is changing,” Quinton said. “It’s like looking through an opaque glass right now; we don’t have the ability to predict it very well as we could have five or 10 years ago and probably will in a couple years.”

City officials have had positive conversations with two property owners who have expressed interest in redeveloping their properties, said Chad Eiken, the city’s planning manager.

City Councilor Ty Stober supported the proposed incentives but lamented a pivot away from the Section 30 plan.

“It’s very disheartening, but we are where we are and I appreciate the staff’s attempts to try and make lemonade out of lemons,” Stober said. “I have no particular expertise in how to salvage this, so I rely on you and the work that you’re doing. So from that standpoint, I’m in agreement with moving forward with what you’re proposing.”