Announcing a Change to Our Board of Directors Jackie Lane, Board Treasurer
It is with both sadness and excitement that we announce Friends of Clark County’s former Board President, Sue Marshall, has resigned her position on the board of directors in order to focus on her run for Clark County Council District 5. While we will miss her contributions as a board member greatly, we wish her well in her new adventure.
Diane Dempster and Ann Foster have stepped up to be our new Board co-presidents. Thank you Diane and Ann for taking on this important work!
Farming is Alive and Well in Clark County Diane Dempster, Board Vice President
Don’t let this guy hear you say farming in Clark County is dead!
We are here to give you the real story, no bull!
Despite the very hot weather last June and the wet Spring this year, Clark County is a great place to grow things. We have some of the richest farmland in the state. The soil is ranked number 1 in productivity and the climate is very conducive to growing things. In the 1920’s Clark County was called the prune capital of the world, with parades, a prune queen and a visit
from President Harding. Today the prune orchards have largely disappeared and housing developments sit on prime farmland. Agriculture has changed considerably, but it is still an important part of Clark County’s economy.
According to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture* Clark County was third in the state for the number of farms. 48% of the farms were between 1 and 9 acres and another 39% were between 10 and 49 acres. 56% of the farmers earned less than $2,500 from farming. The market value of farm products sold was nearly $48 million. 58% of those sales were in livestock and poultry, (mostly dairy, eggs and poultry). 41% of sales were in crop production including nursery stock, fruits, nuts, berries, melons and vegetables.
While this data seems dated, it tells an interesting story. Producers in Clark County can and do grow a wide range of products on relatively small acreages. This fertile land can grow just about anything and there are many farms doing just that. Some farms grow 30 to 40 crops on less than 5 acres producing a plethora of unique and tasty foods. Starting with strawberries and lettuce in early summer, then blueberries, raspberries, all kinds of vegetables, herbs, nuts, apples, pears, plums, and every kind of squash, pumpkins and honey – you name it, It can grow here. Dairy has been an important part of our economy as is animal forage and cereal grains
There are also many livestock and egg producers in the County. This is food security to a growing urban population, but only if we support these resilient producers.
Farming in a rapidly developing County, like ours, is very challenging…new housing developments are put on the best farmland. The extra traffic, runoff from development and cut up parcels make farming difficult. Zoning laws have cut farmland into so many pieces as to make large-scale farming nearly impossible. Counties with larger farms have a vast system of farm suppliers, processors, equipment dealers and marketing organizations that support and protect their farming enterprises. These protections and support have largely disappeared from Clark County leaving producers to fend for themselves. We must support these dedicated and resourceful producers to keep farming alive in our county.
Local farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services. For every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend at least $1.17 on services, a burden which falls on all taxpayers. Each $1 in revenue raised by farms, forest and open space, governments spend only $.34 on services, a net gain to the government $.66 on every dollar collected. *Farmers also support the local economy by buying goods and services locally, thus adding to the economy.
Small and mid-sized farms are much more likely to sell direct to the public and many do. You can find them on these websites: “Clark County Grown,” “Clark Food and Farm Finder,” and “Eat Local First.” All the farmers’ markets as well as Second Mile Food Hub have Clark County grown products. Some grocery stores and locally-owned restaurants often buy from local producers, so ask for local products wherever you shop and eat out.
Let’s keep farming alive and well in Clark County! Advocate for land use laws that support agriculture and buy local whenever you can. That will give us true food security.
*USDA 2017 Census of Agriculture. www.nass.usda.gov/Ag
*USDA Agriculture Research Service
Local Elections Matter Jackie Lane, Board Treasurer
We all hear a lot about the big national elections. Sadly, here in Clark County we hear a lot about Oregon elections if we watch any TV!
What really impacts you on a day-to-day basis, though, is local government. And because of that, LOCAL elections matter. Think of road maintenance, where and what development happens, schools. You may have heard concerns with local law enforcement and staffing, body cameras, jail capacity. What are response times for emergency calls for fire and rescue?
There are a lot of ways that you can participate to make a difference. You can attend, and even testify at, government meetings. You can get on boards and commissions. You can write to your representatives, and you can write Letters to the Editor.
YOU CAN VOTE.
Filing week was May 16 to 20, so we now know who is running for county offices, state legislative offices, Clark PUD, various judicial offices, Congress, Senate, and Secretary of State. The County Council offices are now non-partisan and there are three seats open – Districts 1, 2 and the newly created District 5.
Redistricting has impacted many of us – with new LD and County boundaries. The County did not finalize their districts until May 11th, so your voter registration card might not be correct and you should be receiving a new one through the mail.
You can also click here for information about your districts, voter registration, ballot status, and more. There is much information available online for voters. My personal favorite resource is the League of Women voters’ www.Vote411.org, which will have candidate survey responses, as well as the League’s Candidate Forums as they are available. View the schedule here for live events or watch via CVTV.org. Local papers are another good source of information.
Many of the issues we discuss here at Friends of Clark County are local. Every time you hit a pothole, that is a local government issue. Homelessness – there is a lot of talk at state and national, but where the rubber meets the road is local. How money is spent, actions taken every day. Crime and safety? Definitely a local issue.
So yes, there are important national issues right now, but we are facing an election cycle where critical local offices are being decided.
Conditional Use Permit Basics in a Nutshell Jackie Lane, Board Treasurer
A Conditional Use Permit (“CUP”) is a permitted use in a zone as long as certain conditions are met. These can be landscaping issues or specifications, site plan concerns, setbacks – anything the planning commission or hearings examiner dictates in response to the concerns of neighbors of the property in question. Some frequent construction types that demand CUPs are fire stations, schools and churches. These always occur in a zone where it’s “permitted on conditions.”
It’s all about zoning.
One challenge around CUPs is enforcement. If CUPs are not enforced, or if the cost can easily be absorbed by the offender as just a cost of doing business (e.g., a small fine), then they are useless. Many neighbors of gravel mines, for example, complain that work is done outside of agreed to hours, or that the number of trucks exceed what is allowed in the CUPs. CUPs also have to be structured in such a way that enforcement is feasible.
Clark County Neighborhood Associations
Neighborhoods Are the Fabric of Our Communities: The Backbone and Heart of Our County Ila Stanek
President West Hazel Dell NA
Vice Chair, NACCC
But what are “Neighborhood Associations” (NAs)? They are what you are a part of by virtual of the fact that you live somewhere – whether in a housing development, an apartment complex, an RV park, a condominium complex* or a rural section of the county. There are no applications, no dues, no uniforms – just people willing to spend their energies trying to help improve the area in which they live. Neighborhood Associations are the conduit linking the residents of the county to the county governing bodies.
The concept being that grouping residents together in NAs allows a wider reach for information the county wants to disseminate to its citizens. The thought is that residents will pass their concerns on to their local NA leaders or boards and those concerns will then be put forward for consideration by the appropriate county agency. This efficient exercise depends entirely upon the cooperation of the citizens NAs are designed to serve. If residents connect to their NA leaders and board members, things get moving quicker. If they only complain on social media or across the fence without communicating their concerns to their NA board, usually little gets accomplished.
During the Covid-19 pandemic this process of bringing issues to NAs was especially important and effective because of the lack of in-person Board of County Councilors (“BOCC”) meetings. The past two years have given the county substantial challenges, but it has also been empowered to seek out creative approaches to connect with and assist the communities they serve. One of those options (which I love) is the virtual meetings through Zoom, Webex, Got To Meeting, Team or whatever program the agency you’re interested in uses. Not only do citizens save time and money (no transportation costs or parking fees), but you can sit in the comfort of your home environment where you are less apt to be intimidated by a more formal hearing room setting. Meeting minutes are still collected, reported, and acted upon.
We are moving towards fewer restrictions and ultimately hybrid meetings that will allow for both virtual and in person meetings. The hang-up here could be finding a facility large enough to allow a certain level of social distancing. (We aren’t totally out of this yet, folks.) So don’t save your problems for that magic in-person option, get on the phone, send an email, write a letter, act! Our county is for us, to provide what we as citizens need to gain the best quality of life possible. At the Neighborhood Councils of Clark County (“NACCC”) we are unified by the belief that neighborhood associations are vital allies in helping achieve our mission of working together to build strong communities.
A county’s foundational vitality comes from its neighborhoods. Let your voice add to that vitality by attending the next NA meeting in your area. All civic process involves effective lines of communication between citizens and their elected officials. The diverse communities of our county require active attention from their council member. Local government must do right through the equitable delivery of public services, infrastructure, and public safety.
In Clark County the NAs are approved and authorized by the county, although they are not a county agency as such. There are rules NAs must follow to maintain their approved status as well. Check out the Neighborhood Associations section on the County website for the contact information in your area.
* If you are part of a condominium complex, you are also part of their Homeowners Association (“HOA”); a little like having a double presence in the county. The differences between an HOA and a NA are many and varied. Your HOA home just happens to be situated inside the boundaries of one of the Unincorporated Clark County’s Neighborhood Associations. It really is all about location.
Clark County’s Neighborhood Outreach Marilee McCall
Neighborhood Program Coordinator
Clark County Manager’s Office
Clark County has offered various services to neighborhoods since 1991 and established the Neighborhood Outreach Program in August 1996 to serve those living in unincorporated Clark County. By forming Neighborhood Associations, citizens work in partnership with their local governments to maintain or enhance the livability of their communities.
Neighborhood Associations usually form when a single issue (like a proposed development) unites people in a geographic area. From there, most groups evolve and focus on the long-range overall health of the neighborhood.
Clark County currently has 16 active, recognized neighborhoods in the unincorporated area. Click here to look up your address and find out if your home is located within an active neighborhood association.
If your address falls within an area that doesn’t currently have an active neighborhood association, please contact our Neighborhood Program Coordinator and we can work with you to get one started.
What Neighborhood Associations ARE:
Neighborhood Associations include all of the developments, HOAs and unaffiliated properties within their defined geographic boundaries. Neighborhood residents organize as an association to work in partnership with their local government employees and officials, as well as local service organizations, to maintain or enhance the livability of their communities. Neighborhood associations do not charge membership dues, although they may hold fundraisers or donation drives to raise money to hold picnics or events.
Neighborhood Associations work together to build bridges to a better Clark County and address issues of concern to the residents. Activities include:
Scheduling regular community meetings to gather residents and share information.
Reviewing weekly updates to county development projects in the neighborhood.
Discussing concerns and possible solutions to road and traffic issues.
Assisting county department contacts with outreach on new projects, including park and road improvements.
Organizing park and graffiti clean ups.
Partnering with assigned Sheriff Liaisons to distribute community safety information and assist in outreach for volunteers for the Sheriff’s Auxiliary.
Working with CRESA to distribute information on emergency preparedness and CERT programs.
Serving as an additional contact point with the school district(s), rotary, grange, and other service organizations to distribute community information.
Building community with picnics, food drives, garage sales, and other neighborhood events.
Build awareness within communities of county services available to the public, such as Animal Control, Code Enforcement, Public Works and Public Health.
What Neighborhood Associations are NOT:
Neighborhood Associations are recognized by the county or city government within whose boundaries they are located, but are not divisions of or affiliated with county or municipal governments. The county’s Neighborhood Outreach Program was established and is funded to provide communications and assistance with concerns and issues that are within the county’s jurisdiction. Neighborhood Associations that are recognized by and receiving services from the county are prohibited by state law from engaging in any political or lobbying activity because they are receiving taxpayer funding
Home Owners Associations (HOAs) are different than Neighborhood Associations. If you have questions about your HOA, please contact your HOA board or management company. If you need copies of your CC&Rs, you can contact the Auditor’s office or your local title company to obtain those records. CC&Rs are a civil legal document that is private and separate from county management and/or enforcement.
More information about Neighborhood Associations in un-incorporated Clark County can be found here.
179th Street – Urban Holding Lift – Transportation Access and Circulation Plan Jackie Lane, Board Treasurer
On May 3rd, the County Council held a hearing to approve the 179th Street access management and circulation plan. The NE/NW 179th Street corridor in Clark County serves as a primary east-west facility providing access to I-5, rural neighborhoods, planned urban neighborhoods, and the Clark County Amphitheater and Fairgrounds. This plan is necessary to support the development that is approved as a result of the ‘urban holding lift’ in the area of 179th and I-5.
FOCC believes there are three main flaws to this plan: the large amount of critical areas, failure to apply concurrency, and the lack of public outreach into the planning.
Clark Co. GIS data indicates that 964 acres or nearly one-half (47%) of the holding area overlays comprise critical areas and are not expected to support future development. Even more striking is the reliance on future development of properties containing critical lands (wetlands, riparian areas, unstable slopes, fish and wildlife habitat, nearly half the land).
Concurrency is built into the GMA and County Code. Concurrency says a plan for infrastructure should be in place prior to building commencing. There is a six-year timeframe to obtain funds. On Aug. 21, 2019, the county council voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution that outlines how to pay for $66.5 million in improvements as part of a public-private partnership. However, these are 2019 dollars, low ball estimates, and the cost has risen dramatically since then. As the county has moved forward with plans to lift the urban-holding designation, staff have identified another four, long-range projects that would cost $97 million. One of the County Councilors stated, “What started as a $66 million project to lift urban holding for four housing developments and strip of retail has morphed into a $163 million project that lifts all of urban holding—but we are only talking about how to fund a third of it,” (The Columbian 8/19/2019).
At the meeting, a large number of unhappy residents in the area stated that they had been left out of the process, and that their concerns were not addressed. They felt they were shut out of testimony at the February planning meeting, their neighborhood not engaged, and they were caught by surprise. The plan seems to maximize buildable lands by developers to the detriment of current residents and that it was designed for the developers not current residents. Stakeholders engaged did not represent the neighborhood. This was the major flaw as councilors determined that they need to do more public outreach, and gave staff until the end of May to come back with a plan. This was discussed at the May 8, 22 Council Time meeting, and an outreach plan was reviewed. The hearing was continued to a date to be determined (it will need to be ‘noticed’).
Complications for the county: This plan was to be included in the Comp Plan annual review. Statute allows changes to the comp plan on an annual basis – all changes must be reviewed and then the requisite zoning changes made once. Delays in this item will cause everything that has already been approved for this annual review cycle to be delayed as well. Note that this is the 2021 annual review that should have completed last year. The next annual review takes place one year from when this one completes, so it will be delayed by however much this one is held up. Also noted, typically once work starts on the full blown Comp Plan update they typically put the annual reviews on hold. The ten year Comprehensive Planning cycle is set to begin soon (due 2025).
This will have ramifications beyond 179th St. area road planning. The cost of this roadwork will likely deplete the county road fund to the detriment of other road needs in the county.
We envision a flourishing Clark County thriving with local farms, healthy forests, clean water, protected wildlife habitats and neighborhoods that are vibrant and diverse with parks and natural areas accessible to all. We cannot do it without you.