Plans for development near the 179th Street interchange with Interstate 5 can now move forward following a vote by the Clark County Council to remove a designation on roughly 2,200 acres preventing any movement for years.
The council voted 4-1 during its Nov. 12 meeting to lift an urban holding designation on land near the interchange. The designation had been in place since 2004 as a way to prevent growth that would outpace needed infrastructure in the area, with transportation being the county’s top concern.
One of the requirements for lifting the designation was that the county had needed infrastructure projects adequately funded. In August, the council had voted on a $66.5 million funding package that would pay for transportation improvements in the area.
The package included close to $40 million from the county itself and more than $12 million from developers paid in advance traffic impact fees and other surcharges. Outside of four developments already planned in the urban holding area, the rest would come from the greater Mount Vista traffic impact fee district, which includes the land lifted out of urban holding.
During the meeting, the council also approved increases on traffic impact fee district rates including the Mount Vista district where the land formerly in urban holding was in. The rate for that district increased from $605 per housing unit to $930, the highest increase of the four districts in the county.
Alongside funding from the county for improvements near the interchange, improvements to the interchange itself would be paid for through state funds, though given the recent voter approval of ballot Initiative 976, which would cut transportation funding, whether that money will come is in question.
Councilor Gary Medvigy asked specifically what effects recent direction from Gov. Jay Inslee would have. Following the first election results showing I-976 passing, Inslee released a statement in which he said he directed the Washington State Department of Transportation to postpone projects that weren’t currently underway.
As of the meeting, Clark County Community Planning Director Oliver Orjiako didn’t have an answer for what the effects would be, saying the state would have to figure out how it would go about funding projects already in the pipeline, such as improvements to the interchange. Councilors said that some of the grant funding included in the local funding project could be affected.
In terms of what lifting the designation could mean for the area, Clark County planner Matt Herman presented the council with information from an economic study that showed that a full buildout of the land in urban holding could result in more than 4,800 housing units and more than 2,800 jobs given zoning of parcels within.
Property owner Jim Carlson praised the decision to lift the designation, estimating he had his property prevented from development for more than a decade.
“This is going to be beautiful,” Carlson said about future development in the area.
Tracy Ceravolo expressed concerns over water quality impacts from the development, also mentioning the impact more houses would have on school district populations. The council had previously raised school impact fees that developers pay based on the size of development in order to help districts that would deal with growing pains as more houses went up.
Clark County Planning Commission Vice-chair Ron Barca could recall back when the overlay was first applied, saying that over the years citizens had expressed uncertainty with how any development would ever move forward.
“What we have in front of us now is a very good first step,” Barca said.
Councilor Temple Lentz was the sole “no” vote on lifting urban holding. She said she was “very concerned with the feasibility” of projects in the area, noting the uncertainty of state funding brought on by I-976.
Councilor Julie Olson was more optimistic with what lifting urban holding would entail.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for the community to build something that we can be proud of, both residentially and commercially, and we’re committed to doing that,” Olson said.