Camas leaders highlight city’s strengths during 2022 State of the Community event

Mayor touts 'city of hope' at event featuring city, schools and Port of Camas-Washougal directors

Camas School District Superintendent John Anzalone (center) greets Camas School Board members, including Erika Cox (left) and Corey McEnry (right), during the 2022 State of the Community event held Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, at the Lacamas Lake Lodge in Camas. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Camas is a city of hope. That’s the message Camas Mayor Steve Hogan delivered during his address for the 2022 State of the Community, held Thursday, Sept. 15, at Lacamas Lake Lodge.

“The city of Camas commits to preserving its heritage, sustaining and enhancing a high quality of life and developing the community to meet the challenges of the future,” Hogan told the crowd of about 50 people who had gathered at the city’s lakeside lodge to hear Hogan, as well as Camas School District Superintendent John Anzalone and Port of Camas-Washougal Executive Director David Ripp speak about Camas’ present and future.

“We want to talk about all of the great things that are happening, because, if we don’t tell our story, guess what? Somebody else will,” Anzalone said. “We want to celebrate the wonderful things our kids and staff are doing.”

Between Anzalone, Hogan and Ripp, community members who turned out for the annual, in-person State of the Community event received updates on ongoing projects such as the city’s lake management plan, which involves partnerships between the city and Clark County, the Washington State Department of Ecology and several other regional and statewide entities.

“A couple years ago, we said, ‘We need to step up and take action before we get too far down the road,'” Hogan said, referring to the ongoing water quality issues and toxic algal blooms in Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes. “(Former) Mayor (Barry) McDonnell and our public works director, Steve Wall, said, ‘Time out. Let’s do this right.’ So we have basically worked not only as a city but with the county and Ecology … and we are now at the end of the second year of a 3-year plan.”

Community members also heard about long-awaited projects like the Camas School District’s newly renovated Garver Theater, which Anzalone said had a “soft opening” last spring and is set to have a grand re-opening on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

Hogan also discussed the sub-area planning happening in the city’s North Shore area northeast of Lacamas Lake, and said property owners in the North Shore first approached city leaders 17 years ago to discuss having the area — then part of the county — annexed into the city of Camas.

“In 2018, we decided to go through the North Shore Sub Area Plan,” Hogan said. The first phase of the North Shore sub-area planning included a vision statement showing what community members and stakeholders hoped to see in the unique, mostly undeveloped area. City leaders are now discussing whether they will move on to the second phase of that plan, which would include zoning changes and design codes that would be unique to the North Shore to help the area develop into the sort of walkable, sustainable, possibly more affordable, mixed-use area many in the community hope it will become.

“The property owners have had tremendous patience,” Hogan said, adding that “by October or November” the city will decide to “either fish or cut bait” on the final phase of the North Shore Sub Area Plan with city council members scheduled to debate implementing the second phase of the North Shore Sub Area Plan, which includes rezoning and new design standards, later this fall.

Ripp and Hogan talked about some future projects that foreshadow good times ahead for Camas, including the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act President Joe Biden signed into law on Aug. 9, that will invest $250 billion to boost semiconductor research, development and production in the U.S. and is expected to benefit Clark County semiconductor facilities, including the nLIGHT semiconductor facility in Camas.

“Camas is known as a semiconductor city, so it is logical for businesses to want to come here,” Hogan said. “Right now they have an opportunity (thanks to the CHIPS Act).”

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said recently that the CHIPS Act is “a game-changer.”

“It’s going to bring down costs on everything from appliances to cars to medical equipment — everything that requires chips, it will create good-paying jobs here in Clark County and across our state, and it’s going to protect us against the price spikes we saw as a result of the pandemic, by strengthening a really critical supply chain,” Cantwell said.

Anzalone said the Camas School District’s goal is to help provide the interns and workers these types of high-tech businesses will demand.

Ripp also highlighted several Port projects that will boost Camas-Washougal’s economic forecast over the next few years, including the Port’s newest industrial park facility, Building 20, which is already 100% leased; a $30 million investment into the community by UPC, an aerospace manufacturing company that plans to build a 40,000-square-foot facility in Camas-Washougal and bring 100 family-wage jobs to the area over the next four years; as well as the massive, $150 million waterfront development project, which will bring a mix of multi-family housing, commercial retail, restaurants and other amenities to the Washougal waterfront, on Port-owned land that is being leased for at least 80 years by a private developer.

The community leaders also talked about sustainability during this year’s State of the Community. Ripp said the Port is investing in more sustainable projects, including the recent placement of several electric vehicle chargers at the Port’s industrial park in Washougal; a sustainability guidebook to help other organizations and jurisdictions also reduce their carbon footprints; and a project that could soon put solar panels on several Port properties.

Switching to more renewable sources of energy, Ripp said, will help make Camas-Washougal “more resilient,” with a “more reliable grid” as the area’s population continues to grow and demand for energy continues to increase.

Hogan also highlighted the importance of incorporating sustainability into the city’s projects and future goals.

In fact, environmental sustainability was second on Hogan’s 5-point list of projects he dubbed Camas’ “Hope for the Future,” along with partnerships with other jurisdictions and organizations; economic development; workforce housing affordability; and staffing and facilities.

“Figuring out ways to improve the city, to make less of an environmental impact, is very important,” Hogan said.