News From Your Friends

FOCC Recommends a Complete Moratorium on Development in the 179th St. Access and Management Plan Area

March 18, 2023 in Comprehensive Plan & Growth Management Act, Farmland & Forests, Housing & Transportation, Parks, Trails, & Open Spaces, Position Statements & Policy Recommendations, Responsible Development, Wildlife Habitats

In 2020, 2200 acres of land near the Clark County Fairgrounds was added to the Vancouver Urban Growth Boundary. This historically rural community is home to farms, forests, wetlands, and creeks where salmon spawn. The area is now rapidly developing and area residents, many of whom have been fighting against urban development for nearly 20 years, demand accountability from the county.

Residents Demand: Follow the Law

The Washington State Growth Management Act requires that infrastructure is in place before development occurs. Called “concurrency,” this requirement ensures that existing residents of a community don’t experience significant decreases in their quality of life due to development. Road infrastructure, public transit, and services are all supposed to be planned and funded before development occurs.
Clark County is in egregious violation of concurrency rules. They don’t have the funding, they don’t have an approved plan, and work has not even begun to improve the infrastructure, yet they just keep approving new development. Since 2020, at least 10 major developments have been approved by the Council, adding thousands of new homes.

Additionally, the Washington Department of Transportation just announced that the state funding for the 179th St. interchange will very likely be delayed until 2035. This means that all this development that is occurring along the 179th St. Corridor is driving traffic to an interchange that won’t be improved for at least another 12 years. The traffic gridlock that current residents already face whenever there are events at the Clark County Fairgrounds and Amphitheater will pale in comparison to the gridlock residents will encounter when trying to get on and off the interstate once all these houses and apartments are occupied.

Residents demand that the county follow the law and ensure that infrastructure exists before more development is approved. 

Plan for Livability, Not Just Homes

Historically, this area is rural. There are tall trees, ample wildlife, wetlands, and tons of creeks. Driving around the neighborhood, you often see barns and farm animals, people on tractors, and folks growing and producing things on the land. On a clear night, you can see the stars.

Perhaps the best evidence of the value of the existing rural community is the developer’s own advertising in their homes for sale. They tout that homes are close to parks and walking trails, talk about the rural nature of the community, and there is even a banner on the homes that back up to undeveloped land advertising them as homes on “green space.”

Thus, an excellent companion to the 179th St. Access and Management Plan would be commitment by the county to make progress on the recommendations outlined in the 2022-2027 Natural Areas Acquisition Plan of the Legacy Lands Program (Pages A-40 – A-41)

The plan states:

While the watershed is rapidly changing to an urban/suburban landscape, Whipple Creek provides a highly important travel corridor and habitat area for a variety of fish and wildlife. Historically, the creek supported populations of steelhead, coho, Chinook, chum, and sea-run cutthroat trout. These fish populations have been in severe decline. However, present-day use by steelhead, coho, and sea-run cutthroat trout has been documented. Channel-spanning beaver dams are located throughout the main stem and major tributaries. Remaining intact stands of riparian and Douglas fir forest support a variety of neotropical migrant birds, woodpecker, hawks, owls, deer and other wildlife. […]

High acquisition priorities include riparian areas that also support intact mixed mature forests and uplands habitats. Projects that are large enough to provide multiple habitat functions (breeding, nesting, sanctuary, resting, feeding, etc.) are important within this kind of urbanizing landscape. Other important focal areas include Packard Creek and connections between lower Whipple Creek and the Vancouver Lake Lowlands. Acquisitions that expand Whipple Creek Park, the upper Whipple Creek Urban Wildlife Habitat Area, and that provide trail connections within the Whipple Creek Basin and between Whipple Creek and Salmon Creek are also priorities. Clark County should also explore opportunities to establish a farm preservation district within the Whipple Creek subarea, consistent with this plan’s goals and objectives.

Neighborhood Residents want to see detailed plans from the county on how and when they will acquire high-priority lands in the area prior to additional development being approved. In the future, real estate developers that want to build in the area should submit plans that accelerate the preservation of critical habitat.

Additionally, the county should immediately create a farm preservation district within the Whipple Creek subarea either within or bordering the 179th St Urban Holding Area.

Work with Existing Neighborhood Residents

Throughout this entire process, the county has not provided ample opportunity for existing residents to provide feedback on what they want for their community.

Provide Sufficient Notice
Notification of planned development has been insufficient because now that the zoning in the area is considered urban, only residents within 300 feet of a planned development must be notified. In an area with lot sizes typically in the 5 to 40 acre range, a 300 foot notice is insufficient.

Engage Residents
The ability for residents to provide feedback has also been insufficient. The county staff set up several meetings where they presented the same information about their plan, but they never allowed ample time for residents to provide feedback and ask questions. Presenting the same PowerPoint deck is not the same as providing a space for the public to provide meaningful feedback and collaborate on a plan that deeply impacts their quality of life.

Also, the area does not have an active neighborhood association. Neighborhood associations are the most effective way for residents of unincorporated Clark County to get information from the county, and share perspectives. Residents are working to reactivate the neighborhood association, but it takes time and collaboration with the county.

Ultimately, existing neighborhood residents are asking to be properly informed and have ample opportunity for feedback.

How Can You Help?

Submit public comments by 3/28/

Demand that the County:

  • Follow regulations related to concurrency and ensure that infrastructure exists before more development is approved in the area.
  • Release detailed plans on how and when they will acquire high-priority lands consistent with the 2022-2027 Natural Areas Acquisition Plan of the Legacy Lands Program (pages A-40 – A-41) prior to approving more development.
  • Create a farm preservation district within the Whipple Creek subarea either within or bordering the 179th St Urban Holding Area consistent with the 2022-2027 Natural Areas Acquisition Plan of the Legacy Lands Program (pages A-40 – A-41).
  • Use notification standards from rural-zoned areas within the 179th St. Access and Management Plan Area.
  • Gather feedback from residents on a plan that will work for their community.

Submitted by Mo McKenna, FOCC Board Member & Local Farmer

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