News From Your Friends

Comprehensive Plan Update – Spring 2023

May 23, 2023 in Comprehensive Plan & Growth Management Act, Railroad

The County hosted information sessions on the Comp Plan update in late March. These can be viewed on CVTV’s website.

Population Forecast

The County selected the population growth numbers to be used in planning for growth. Against the advice, if not pleading, of the cities, the County Council chose not to go with the most-likely ‘medium’ number provided by the Office of Financial Management (OFM), and instead went with the number the Business Industry Association (BIA) pushed, which was higher than medium although not the highest number originally proposed by Karen Bowerman and Michelle Belkot.

As a result, the County will plan to a 2045 population forecast of 718,154 people, versus the midrange number of 698,416.

It is worth noting that those in the building industry and Council who favored the higher numbers used a look back of only the last few years, whereas OFM looks back 20 years. That span includes bust as well as boom cycles. OFM also noted that death rates are rising (we are getting older), and birth rates are slowing (people are waiting to have children), offsetting our high in-migration rate.

Freight Rail Dependent Uses (FRDU)

The county held a work session on Freight Rail Dependent Uses on May 17. While this is not technically part of the Comp Plan, it will significantly affect land use in the county and is worth keeping an eye on. The presentation can be found here.

A little background: some years ago the County attempted to side-step the GMA and zone Ag Land in Brush Prairie (eg., Lagler farm) for rural industrial (I believe it was for an asphalt plant). The County lost on appeal. The legislature was implored to fix that. Ta Da, FRDU was born. House Bill 5517 in the 2017/18 legislative session allowed Freight Rail Dependent uses on ag and resource lands. It only applied to short line railroads in Clark and Okanogan counties. (Okanogan is not using). Language in the bill is unclear about what ‘adjacent’ means. Also, while some read it ‘as sewer can’t be extended outside the UGA’ others see it differently. This legislation opens up ‘Railroad Industrial’ development along the entire rail line, outside of Urban Growth Boundaries, from Vancouver to its terminus in Chelatchie.

This was all on hold due to dueling lawsuits between the County and Eric Temple (PVJR railroad owner). The lawsuits were settled, and the County signed a new, generous, contract with PVJR. Much of that track is in very poor shape, but the RR Operator has been getting the county grants (from the state) to do track bed and bridge repairs.

The May 17 work session was to catch the council up on where we left off and get guidance to Staff on how to proceed.  Several of the Councilors are extremely enthusiastic about development along the rail.

The FRDU project page can be found here.

Our calendar of upcoming county meetings relating to land use can be found here.

Some key upcoming events include hearings on the Housing Options Study code changes – The Housing Options Study focuses on land use changes to increase housing options within the Vancouver Urban Growth Area (UGA) – aka unincorporated Vancouver. In July there will be work sessions and public hearings on the Employment Projection, another key data point for the Comprehensive Planning process.

Further resources

  • Please make sure you are following Friends of Clark County for announcements, newsletters, action alerts, forums and more.
  • Campaign for A People’s Clark County, WA is the effort of a local resident and member of Alliance for Community Engagement seeking to partner with other individuals and community organizations, including those serving young people and under-represented groups, to generate interest in the update. Please “Like” their page and share with your community.
  • The League of Women Voters of Clark County is also following this closely, and has a blog specifically focused on Land Use.