Neighbors question Washougal development

With 281 planned units, traffic worries residents

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John Spencer, of Washougal (center), tells Washougal Hearing Examiner Joe Turner, during a Dec. 20 public hearing, he wants to make sure all required studies, including one about stormwater to check into downstream impacts, are completed before the Northside Planned Unit Development is approved.

A proposed Washougal development that could result in the construction of 281 single family homes attracted a larger than usual crowd for a Thursday afternoon public hearing at Washougal City Hall.

More than 35 people attended the Dec. 20 hearing — some to express concerns, some to ask questions — before Washougal Hearing Examiner Joe Turner issues a decision in January.

If approved, the NorthSide 4 LLC development would be located on approximately 100 acres near Woodburn Elementary School, north of the Lookout Ridge neighborhood, on land owned by Ray’s Acres LLC.

City of Washougal staff have recommended approval of the project.

During the Dec. 20 public hearing, David Finn, a 20-year resident of the Woodburn Hill area, talked about the impact that additional vehicles transporting students would have on the “morning rush hour.”

“The fog on the road — 23rd and 283rd — is so thick 24 days a year,” Finn said. “In the daytime, you can see less than a quarter mile.”

Larry Landgraver, a resident who lives near the proposed development, said 23rd is a narrow street.

“People drive faster than they used to,” he said. “It’s going to be a mess.”

Washougal City Planner Jessica Herceg said a traffic study did not identify any failures warranting off-site road improvements.

“The applicant has proposed to complete street improvements along Southeast 23rd Street, immediately adjacent to their development,” Herceg said.

Traffic engineer H. Lee & Associates, of Vancouver, completed the traffic study. Representatives from the city of Washougal’s transportation consultant, Lancaster Engineering, of Portland, as well as the city of Camas and Clark County reviewed the traffic study.

“When you have big, wide lanes, what you also have is faster cars and you have more cars. And, for pedestrians, you have longer crossing distances,” said Brian Davis, a transportation engineering consultant for Washougal. “For bicyclists, you have more interactions as they are trying to turn in and turn off. It’s a … delicate balance where we try to ensure the transportation system has the capacity so you guys can get from point A to point B without pulling your hair out, but also to try to ensure it’s a system that works safely, not only for you and I, but also for the most vulnerable — children, senior citizens and people with disabilities that also use the roads.”

The development, which could add nearly 700 residents to the city of Washougal, would include high, middle and affordable housing units, as well as 33.5 acres of green space, parks and trails. The housing units fall within the Camas School District boundaries. The majority of the site is currently used for grass hay production.

If the development is approved, construction is estimated to start in mid-2019, depending on market conditions and permitting and infrastructure timelines.