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News / Clark County News

Adding housing to narrow, two-lane 174th Street concerns residents in Fairgrounds neighborhood

Retired engineer believes area classified incorrectly

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 1, 2024, 11:20am
3 Photos
Dean Hergesheimer, who lives off Northeast 174th Street, has been arguing for years that the county code has been misapplied to allow increased development off Northeast 174th Street.
Dean Hergesheimer, who lives off Northeast 174th Street, has been arguing for years that the county code has been misapplied to allow increased development off Northeast 174th Street. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Dean Hergesheimer believes Clark County’s public works department made a mistake.

Hergesheimer, a retired professional engineer who worked for the city of Battle Ground during the 1990s, lives off Northeast 174th Street in the Fairgrounds neighborhood. His neighborhood is included in the contentious plan to upgrade the roads around 179th Street to keep pace with housing development in an area that is becoming more urban.

Hergesheimer has argued for years that adding housing along Northeast 174th Street will increase traffic beyond the road’s capacity and pose a hazard to pedestrians.

Northeast 174th Street will go from about 50 lots using it to potentially 200, Hergesheimer said. His calculation includes the 72 lots in the under-construction M&H subdivision and the 84 lots in the proposed Viers subdivision that has a hearing examiner meeting May 23.

The increased development comes at a time when Clark County needs about 100,000 affordable housing units by 2044 to keep up with the state’s projected housing needs, according to the Washington Department of Commerce.

The disagreement between Hergesheimer and public works officials boils down to Northeast 174th Street’s classification. Currently, the street is considered a collector road, meaning it collects traffic from a residential area and sends it on to other more major roads.

Northeast 174th Street falls into a category of collector road that typically has a 34-foot roadway with 6-foot bike lanes and can handle about 12,000 average daily car trips. Northeast 174th Street is 20 feet wide with no bike lanes nor sidewalks. Hergesheimer believes it better fits a “private road” classification.

Hergesheimer believes Northeast 174th Street should have another connection to 179th Street, he said, to comply with a county code that requires a secondary access road when more than 100 dwelling units are on a local access road.

The county’s 179th Street Access Management and Circulation Plan includes future roads connecting Northeast 179th Street and Northeast 174th Street. One is planned to run through Hergesheimer’s property.

Hergesheimer presented his case to a hearing examiner in 2021 who initially ruled in his favor but later reversed the decision. Hergesheimer and his neighbors appealed the revised decision to Clark County Superior Court in December 2021, but the court found in favor of the development.

“There will be increased volume due to the developments and the hearings examiner and the Superior Court rulings support staff’s interpretation of code regarding the width of the offsite road,” county Engineer and Public Works Director Ken Lader said.

In a letter responding to Hergesheimer’s concerns, Lader said the road width and lack of sidewalks are “not ideal for safety.” He added the county will require the developers to build sidewalks on Northeast 174th Street as part of their subdivisions.

Meanwhile, Northeast 174th Street is relatively isolated. Most of Northeast 179th Street doesn’t have sidewalks, bike lanes or a C-Tran line, which means residents have to drive to get anywhere.

Hergesheimer said some of his neighbors walk on Northeast 174th Street with their dogs or for exercise, but the increased construction activity and heavy trucks have deterred some from using the public right-of-way.

“It’s the only public property for people to walk on,” Hergesheimer said.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

Columbian staff writer