Community center headed for ballot

Camas council OKs $78 million bond measure to build aquatics facility, renovate sports fields

The fate of a Camas-based community aquatics center will soon be in voters’ hands.

Camas City Council members on Monday agreed to put a proposition on the Nov. 5, 2019 General Election ballot that would allow the city to issue general obligation bonds in an amount up to $78 million for the construction of a new community aquatics center and renovation of three Camas sports fields.

City councilman Steve Hogan said talks of building a community center have popped up several times during his 14 years on the Camas council.

“It’s time to move forward with something,” Hogan said at a Monday council workshop held before the council voted to place the bond measure on the November ballot. “A lot of good people over the years have tried to get this on the table.”

Another longtime Camas city councilman, Greg Anderson, agreed with Hogan.

“I’ve heard this many times,” Anderson said of the push to build a community center.

He added that, of the 12 options presented to council showing different configurations of community centers, field improvements and even a new sports field complex, he thought “the full meal deal” — building a larger community center with a recreation and competition pool as well as a gymnasium and several community spaces — made the most sense.

“It’s a big ask, but there’s a lot in this ask,” Anderson said.

The councilman added that, if voters approve the bond proposition in November, he would like to see the community center built on a 6.3-acre piece of city-owned property located on the south side of Lake Road, across from the entrance to Camas’ Heritage Park near Lacamas Lake.

“I’d like to see us work with the location we have now,” Anderson said. “That lake — both lakes — are part of (Camas).”

To pass, the proposition will need to garner the approval of 60 percent of voters in the Nov. 5 election.

According to the city’s finance director, Cathy Huber Nickerson, the bond would cost Camas property owners $1.04 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2021 and decrease gradually to 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2039. This would cost the owner of a $464,400 home — the median Camas home price — $41 per month, or $492 per year, in 2021.

The bond would cover the costs of construction as well as the equipment and furniture needed for the community aquatics center and renovations at the three sports fields.

Capell said a Camas-Washougal group working to build a joint community center had previously estimated operating costs for a similarly sized aquatics center at around $2.6 million per year, with revenues from member fees and other usage projected to be about $2.3 million.

“So a (city) subsidy of about $300,000 would be needed,” Capell said. “We will refine that, but that was their estimate.”

The bond proposition option approved by a unanimous council vote Monday — Option I — was not the largest of the 12 options presented by staff, but did include the most amenities for the aquatic-community center. Councilors did not feel comfortable including a $12 million new sports field complex in the ballot proposition, but did say they wanted to add roughly $6 million worth of improvements to existing sports fields.

The option approved Monday would include $2.7 million worth of renovations, including turf and lighting, at Forest Home Park; $2.3 million in improvements at Prune Hill Sports Park; and $1 million in renovations to sports fields at Dorothy Fox Park.

On the community center side, the councilmembers approved an option that would build a 78,000-square-foot community center with a recreation pool, a competition pool, gymnasium, community rooms, cardio and weight rooms, and an indoor walk-jog track overlooking the gym courts and the site’s forested areas.

Preliminary plans show a community center that “nestles into the site” and blends in with the forested land by having simple, low-profile rooflines, according to architects working with the city.

City staff held an in-person open house on June 18 and an online “open house” June 18-30 to unveil the community center options presented to council on Monday and gauge the community’s thoughts on building a new community aquatics center and renovating or building sports fields throughout Camas.

Camas City Administrator Pete Capell said Monday that 101 people attended the June 18 open house at Lacamas Lake Lodge, 1,690 people voted online and 593 people left online comments.

A majority listed a leisure pool, competitive pool and fitness center as their top three priorities for the community aquatics center.

Several commenters said they didn’t like the planned Lake Road site, and many were concerned about traffic on Northeast Lake Road and nearby Northeast Everett Street.

Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall said city staff had examined traffic scenarios for a similarly sized center on the Lake Road property and found that, even extending out to 2040, the center’s traffic impacts to the Lake Road-Everett intersection would be “fairly minimal.”

Wall said the negative traffic impacts of adding a community center to the Lake Road site would mean, at most, a delay of two to four seconds and one car length to any “queueing up” at the intersection.

“Even in the 2040 timeframe, the intersection still operates the way we’d like to see it,” Wall told councilmembers Monday.

Addressing many residents’ questions about parking at the future community center, Capell said the inclusion of $5 million worth of off-site improvements would add parking at the nearby Heritage Park and that the site itself would have 134 parking spots at its full build-out.

“If we had a sunny day on the weekend with special events at (Lacamas Lake Lodge) and at the community center, we could have a problem, but most of the time we’ll be more than capable of addressing the parking needs at the community center,” Capell said.

City staff will have illustrations and information available online as well as at the Camas Days festival in downtown Camas on July 26 and July 27.

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