A county plan to bring industry to rural Brush Prairie is officially over as the Clark County Council voted to scrap a zoning designation the state Court of Appeals found in violation of state law.
The council voted unanimously during its Nov. 12 meeting to remove the Rural Industrial Land Bank designation from its Comprehensive Growth Management Plan. The action removes the designation altogether, which had been used in zoning on about 600 acres of land near State Route 503 between Battle Ground and Vancouver.
Clark County Planner Gary Albrecht provided a timeline of the land bank, which was adopted in 2016 with the county’s growth plan update. The adoption was appealed by two groups, Friends of Clark County and Futurewise, to the state Growth Management Hearings Board, which issued decisions against the adoption.
This year, the state Court of Appeals issued its own decision against the land bank adoption, leading the county to stop pursuing a favorable verdict on the matter by dropping the land bank.
Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring said the removal was made “with sadness,” maintaining she felt that the land bank was not in violation.
“(I’m) reluctant, but we do need to be in compliance,” Quiring said, adding that being out of compliance affected the county’s ability to secure funding from the state.
Councilor John Blom said it was “challenging and frustrating” that the county lost the appeal, saying it was due to the county not conducting an area-wide assessment of agriculture, even though there was no direction for what that assessment would look like.
“So we were guilty of not doing something, but no one will actually tell us what it was that we were supposed to do,” Blom said.
Councilor Temple Lentz said she was pleased that the county was finally getting back into compliance with the state Growth Management Act, something that had been a question for years since the comprehensive plan update was adopted.
“It’s been a long time coming, and (I) look forward in hopefully continuing that trend as we move forward into the next update to the (comprehensive) plan,” Lentz said.
Clark County Community Planning Director Oliver Orjiako explained that removing the land bank designation doesn’t affect an overlay put on land near the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad with the intent to allow industrial development, of which 200 acres was in the land bank. That overlay is part of a larger project to implement new law about freight rail-dependent industry in rural areas, though the project has stalled out due to a legal battle between the county, which owns the railroad, and the rail operator.