Camas Council OKs North Shore subarea plan

Mostly undeveloped area north of Lacamas Lake expected to accommodate 2,900 residential units, 1,400 new jobs

Camas officials have approved a subarea plan that will guide future development in the city’s North Shore, a mostly undeveloped 990-acre area located north of Lacamas Lake.

On Monday, Nov. 7, nearly three weeks after the Camas Planning Commission unanimously approved the subarea plan and sent it on to the Camas City Council, the Council held a public hearing on the subarea plan and heard from North Shore property owners who helped develop the subarea plan and who support the plan’s final adoption.

“My hope is that North Shore will someday become a part of our city that the entire community can be proud of,” said Lynn Johnston, owner of a large piece of North Shore property that used to house the Johnston Dairy Farm. “I believe this subarea plan will serve as the foundation for that to happen and that the city council’s (approval) tonight will be a big step in making that a reality.”

Although 270 acres in the North Shore is public property owned – mostly by the city of Camas, but also by the Camas School District, which opened its newest primary school, Lacamas Lake Elementary School, in 2018 — the majority of the land is privately owned.

City officials annexed much of the North Shore area into the city boundaries in 2008, and approved a 460-acre “Lacamas Northshore” mixed-use development on the Johnson Dairy property in 2013, with those initial plans calling for a mix of light industrial, commercial and residential properties.

The Johnson Dairy owners “took the lead in trying to showcase the (area) for economic development,” said Camas Planning Manager Robert Maul on Monday, adding that light industrial developers had concerns about the area, including a lack of access points, so the type of economic development city leaders once promoted for the North Shore did not materialize.

Instead, city officials voted in 2018 to begin subarea planning in the area to better determine the future development of the city’s North Shore.

“It is a specific and special area,” Maul said Monday. “The subarea plan addresses everything from housing needs (to) jobs, (infrastructure), schools, parks and recreation — all of those elements go into our planning.”

The first phase of the subarea planning included 13 public outreach events and surveys in 2019-20, including meetings with Camas youth at Discovery ad Camas high schools and during a student workshop, a community forum, two online surveys, a visioning workshop and several stakeholder meetings with Johnson and other private property owners in the city’s North Shore.

“It was a long process, but it’s been a thorough process. Sensitive areas that needed to be protected have been protected. Land (has been) set aside for future growth for residential and employment uses,” Johnson said Monday.

The city has said the North Shore is “anticipated to experience substantial growth over the next 20 years,” and that subarea planning would allow the city to set a plan in motion to guide private development in the area, instead of — as the city’s former head planner once told city council members — “simply reacting to development.”

The city approved the North Shore Vision Statement in September 2020.

The “North Shore Vision” calls for:

  • protecting the area’s natural environment, lake shores and tree groves;
  • planning a network of green spaces and recreational opportunities;
  • clustering uses for a more walkable community;
  • providing a variety of housing options, including some more affordable housing;
  • siting industrial parks and commercial centers to the north side of the North Shore, away from the lake;
  • favoring small businesses, including restaurants, cafes and grocery stores that would serve the residents and employees in the North Shore;
  • planning for needed schools and infrastructure;
  • ensure adequate roads, schools and utilities are in place before development occurs;
  • maintaining Camas’ “small-town feel;” and
  • having phased, sustainable growth.

The state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) requires fast-growing cities like Camas to develop comprehensive plans to manage their growth and to meet 13 goals related to reducing sprawl, providing affordable housing and opportunities for economic development, preserving open spaces and historic buildings, protecting the environment and properly managing shorelines.

“We’ve been working with folks, working through the GMA and … have done a lot of public outreach,” Maul told the Post-Record in August, following a North Shore Subarea open house. “When we asked folks, ‘What are your thoughts for this area?’ we got everything from ‘Do nothing’ to ‘Hey, I’d love to see some nice development in the area.'”

Consultants presented a “preferred concept” to Camas City Council members on Monday, showing a central plaza in the middle of the North Shore with zones slated for higher- and lower-density residential developments, mixed-use commercial-residential, a “North Shore Boulevard,” plenty of open space and parks land along Lacamas Lake; room for public facilities, including the Lacamas Lake Elementary School; and a “mixed employment” business park zone located on flat land along the North Shore’s north-northeast edge, farthest away from the lake.

The plan also called for a “ridge road hugging (publicly owned) Legacy Lands, not cutting through but protecting the integrity of that open space,” WSP consultant Nicole McDermott told the Council on Monday, adding that the preferred concept “really captured all of the feedback from the community and the committees over the past several months.”

The consultants’ plan estimates private development in the North Shore will add 2,969 residential units or around 8,000 future Camasonians, as well as nearly 1,400 new jobs.

The Council directed the city’s attorney to draft an ordinance to adopt the North Shore Subarea plan during the Council’s next meeting on Monday, Nov. 21.

City officials still need to agree on zoning overlays and unique design codes in the North Shore, but the area’s private property owners said Monday they are pleased with the subarea planning thus far.

Kim Logan, a representative for the Mills family – North Shore landowners who sold land along Lacamas Lake, as well as the historic Pittock-Leadbetter House, a 3,700-square-foot Queen Anne style home built in 1901 by Oregonian newspaper publisher Henry L. Pittock, to the city of Camas for $2.5 million in 2018 — said Monday they supported the city’s approval of the subarea plan and complimented city staff and consultants on their yearslong subarea planning.

Steve Rementeria, a partner at HSR Development, LLC, which owns, as Rementeria said Monday night, “probably the second biggest” piece of private land in the city’s North Shore, also spoke in favor of the subarea plan during the Council’s regular meeting Monday night, and said he thought city staff and consultants had done “a great job” planning for future development in the area, and said he hoped his development company could help bring more affordable housing to Camas’ North Shore.

“With higher density (zoning) and smaller lots, that creates the opportunity for affordable housing,” Rementeria said. “Our goal is to see affordable housing in this area. I think it’s important, and it’s doable.”

He added that the subarea plan’s call for trails, parks and open space along the lake on “a huge amount of land,” is unlike anything he’s seen in the area. “I think it’s a great job that’s been done,” he said.

David Ripp, chief executive officer for the Port of Camas-Washougal, also supported the Council’s approval of the subarea plan and said during the Monday night public hearing that the Port will continue to work with the city as it develops its Grove Field airport near the North Shore.

At least one city councilor questioned the subarea plan Monday. Councilwoman Leslie Lewallan moved to postpone approval of the plan, saying she was concerned about “hidden costs” to the city.

“At this point, I’m inclined to move to postpone approving this plan just for more information,” Lewallen said. “I would really like to see what those costs might be.”

The city’s public works director, Steve Wall, explained that, because the North Shore land is already in city limits, the city has “already committed to serving this land one way or another” and that the area would develop with or without the subarea plan.

“Under the existing zoning (the North Shore is) able to develop and would develop from an infrastructure and service standpoint,” Wall said Monday. “This is not a new property, not new annexation land we’re trying to figure out how to serve. This is land that’s already in the city … and we’ve already committed to serving (it).”

The bulk of North Shore development will be led by developers, Maul said.

“Unless there is a capital project approved by the Council, we’re not going up there and building anything,” Maul explained.

And, said Camas Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson, any infrastructure the city would need to build or maintain in the North Shore – including roads and city utilities — would be funded by the tax dollars coming from the massive new development.

“The assessed value of that will more than pay for that (infrastructure),” she said.

Shawn MacPherson, Camas’ city attorney, told the Council they would have the opportunity to set unique design standards – including the possibility of stricter tree protections – in the North Shore during the next phase of North Shore planning.

“That is a critical part of your role as council members – to rule on parts of the comprehensive plan,” MacPherson said. “The next phase includes overlay zoning, design standards, your streets, the details for that kind of planning.”

MacPherson added that the amount of public input that went into the North Shore Subarea plan was impressive.

“This is probably as much of a public process as I’ve seen,” he said.

The attorney then told the Council they had some decisions to make when it came to the North Shore Subarea plan that has been ongoing since 2019: “It is within the purview of the Council to approve as presented, modify (the plan), reject the whole thing or remand it (to the Camas Planning Commission for reconsideration),” MacPherson said.

Councilwoman Bonnie Carter then moved to approve the subarea plan as presented and to direct the city attorney to prepare an ordinance for the Council’s consideration at its Nov. 21 meeting. That motion passed unanimously.