News From Your Friends

Freight Rail Dependent Uses: FRDU

March 18, 2023 in Railroad, Rivers, Lakes & Aquifers


In 2018, the state legislature passed HB 5517. This bill included goofy language to limit it to 2 counties, one of which is Clark: any county located west of the Cascade mountains that has a population of at least 400,000 and a border that touches another state. (The other was Okanogan, with an equally odd description without actually naming either county).

…may also include development of freight rail dependent uses on land adjacent to short line railroads in the transportation element of their comprehensive plans. Development regulations may be modified to include development of freight rail dependent uses that do not require urban governmental services in rural lands.

They did not define ‘adjacent’. They clearly did not intend sewer and other urban services to be extended.

Fast forward to today

The County started work on their FRDU plan in 2018. That work stalled while the County and the Rail operator Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad (PVJR, owned by Eric Temple) fought out a lawsuit over the contract to operate the railroad. That lawsuit was settled, and a new contract signed, late last year.

A work session was held on March 1st  to review the work that had been done before it was put on hold and discuss next steps. You can find the meeting minutes, video, and presentation here, scroll down to 3/1 meeting.

The County has asked the PAs office (Chris Cook) to research if the County can legally provide services to the area along the rail that is outside the UGA and currently mostly ag land (Lagler farm in Brush prairie and environs). “Clearly the legislature didn’t mean that.”  If that comes back as a ‘no’ they intend to ask the legislature to fix that. Sue Marshall noted that providing services would induce sprawl.

There was a recommended boundary for land that would/could be zoned for rail dependent development. Also there was a recommendation for what industrial development would be allowed. The Council asked for that information.

The area between Battle Ground and the end of the line in Chelatchie was not included in the earlier work, but Council is clearly interested in extending there as well.

Friends of Clark County believes in the value and benefits of railroad; however, FOCC does not support a broad definition of “freight dependent uses”, which could include hazardous materials, or freight that damages the property and environs extending broadly into areas on either side of the railroad. Nor does FOCC support any industry in IR zones that will or could cause damage to the quality of life within 5 miles of that industrial location.

We will be watching when this comes back to Council.