The City of Camas is currently considering its options to fund sewer system infrastructure in a large portion of the North Urban Growth Area — the expansive area north of Lacamas Lake that was adopted into the city’s urban growth boundary in 2007.
During the May 5 City Council meeting, Public Works Director Eric Levison provided information about the option of forming a local improvement district to bring in an estimated $24 million that would cover the costs associated with planning, designing and constructing an extensive gravity sewer system.
The LID could encompass approximately 1,600 acres. The infrastructure would start in the Green Mountain area and provide gravity conveyance through a series of forced mains and pump stations to Crown Road.
Levison said the city has been working with a number of the North Urban Growth Area’s development groups, including Green Mountain Camas, LLC and CJ Dens Land Company.
“As we started to wrestle with this discussion, both with the development community and internally,” he said, “we wondered, is there a way to get some of the basic infrastructure in so that we don’t have to have these temporary or interim solutions?”
Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson said forming a local improvement district would be a cost-effective way to fund some of the necessary infrastructure.
“If we fund those projects up front, the benefitting properties pay for that over time,” Levison explained. “The benefit of that is we get the infrastructure we want now, and we don’t have to wait and have these interim systems.”
Nickerson said if an LID is formed it would be administered by the city, while the Clark County Treasurer’s Office would handle billing and collection. The debt obligation would not be included in the city’s debt capacity. Costs would be allocated out to each property within the boundary of the LID. Once developed into smaller parcels, costs would then be allocated further.
“The city isn’t obligated for anyone that doesn’t pay,” Nickerson explained. “You would set up a guarantee fund as part of the bond issuance as well.”
The area currently has approximately 100 property owners.
In its April 2010 adopted General Sewer Plan Amendment, which specifically addresses infrastructure plans for the NUGA, it states that wastewater collection and conveyance facilities will be operated by the city, and construction will be funded in part by NUGA developers and system development charges. Levison said if funding is generated from an LID, the planned system development charges could be reduced.
According to the proposal, implementation of the LID would be by a petition that requires the support of a majority of property owners. Levison said the developers have initially reacted to the proposal with some skepticism — primarily related to timing and cost.
Randy Printz, a Vancouver attorney who represents the Green Mountain group, said his clients are well into the planning process. They are getting ready to come to the city with a development agreement. The next step would be to apply for master plan approval in mid-summer, with the hope of starting engineering work this fall and construction in 2015.
“If this is timing neutral for us, and relatively revenue neutral, then we would certainly support that,” he said. “Our concern is this is a huge engineering and construction undertaking. Construction time for this is probably three years. We are way in front of that.”
“We are certainly not opposed to this, but there are some issues we have to work through,” Printz continued. “The clock is certainly ticking for us.”
Levison said during the next three weeks the city will work with consultants to define the boundaries of a proposed LID, and identify solid cost numbers and time frames to help determine if an LID is a viable solution.
“Most of this is going to hinge on [the developers] saying ‘this is something we want to pursue,'” Levison said. “In the next step, we should have better numbers, and a much better understanding from the development community if this is something they want to help us pursue. With those numbers, then we are starting to make a bigger commitment for consultant fees.”
Levison said it has been 15 to 20 years since the city last implemented an LID. Previous districts, however, were on a much smaller scale.
“If it decides to move, it will move quickly,” Levision said of the current LID proposal. “We will be working with the consultants and the development community to see if we can find a win-win out of this.”