‘Our Camas 2045’ Camas unveils key themes for long-range planning

City must plan to accommodate over 7,700 new residents, diversify housing

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Camas City Administrator Doug Quinn (right) talks to an attendee during the City's "Our Camas 2045" community forum, held at Lacamas Lake Lodge, June 12, 2024.

The city of Camas has unveiled its draft Our Camas 2045 vision statement, which will guide the City’s comprehensive planning over the next two decades.

“This vision is written in the present tense, as if describing the city as it exists in 2045,” City staff explained at the top of the vision statement. “Some aspects of the vision can be found in Camas today, while others represent aspirations.”

City staff and consultants discussed the draft vision statement June 12, during the first of four community summits the City will host to engage with the public as it plans for 20 years’ worth of growth and development throughout the City — as well as in Camas’ historic downtown through the ongoing “Our Downtown Camas 2045” subarea planning.

The Our Camas 2045 vision statement is broken into four key areas: community, environment, neighborhoods and downtown, and states:

“OUR COMMUNITY: Camas is an inclusive community where residents experience a sense of belonging and connection. Community-wide events foster civic pride, strong bonds among neighbors and a welcoming atmosphere for new residents. Community amenities and recreation facilities throughout Camas promote active lifestyles and social interaction. Camas is renowned for its excellent schools and invests in youth and families through rich library and sports programming. The City promotes a strong culture of public safety, transparent communication, and good governance, allowing residents to thrive in their neighborhoods and engage in decision-making that shapes their community.

OUR ENVIRONMENT: Camas embraces its connection to nature and enjoys a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities, which are foundational to Camas’ quality of life. The community shares a deep reverence for Camas’ beauty, scenery, and tranquility, and is committed to preserving and enhancing its natural resources and tree canopy. Through proactive planning, the City mitigates the effects of changing climate conditions and natural hazards, ensuring a resilient community for generations to come.

OUR NEIGHBORHOODS: Camas embraces its small-town feel while responsibly managing growth, ensuring a prosperous and livable future for all. Camas provides a variety of housing options that meet the needs of all residents, while ensuring the town’s charm and livability are sustained. Camas is home to a thriving economy and diverse businesses, affording residents ample employment opportunities and access to high wage jobs. Neighborhood commercial hubs connect residents to daily services and amenities through a network of sidewalks and bike lanes, improving access and connectivity.

OUR DOWNTOWN: Charming, vibrant, and walkable, Downtown Camas is the city’s living room. Downtown’s history is complemented by new businesses and inclusive housing options. Expansion, resiliency and a dynamic economic landscape are critical to its success. Downtown Camas anchors the community while fostering a culture of pride, support, and connection.”

Camas Community Development Director Alan Peters said City staff and consultants have been meeting with stakeholders, city officials and community members for several months to gather input before coming up with the draft vision statement.

“We went to Camasonians in many ways,” Peters told Camas Planning Commission members during their May 21 meeting. “We had community events, tables and a mapping exercise at the April and May First Fridays, where we got over 80 responses; we had yard signs out during the plant and garden fair; we had flyers at Chamber (of Commerce) luncheons, at the fire station open house and at downtown retailers … we sent mailers to every Camas household … and a big way we got input was through online engagement (at”

Peters said the City had over 2,000 visitors to its Our Camas 2045 website, 366 responses to its online survey and 146 people who contributed to the City’s online, interactive mapping tools.

“We got a lot of good input between the community conversations, First Fridays and the website,” Peters said. “And we heard a lot of similar themes.”

Asked what they liked about Camas and its downtown area, the majority of respondents touched on Camas’ “small-town feel, downtown walkability, charm, history and trees,” Peters said.

“The words ‘small town’ were used more than ‘hometown,’” Peters said. “And it was interesting to see that come up again and again. Some were people saying Camas used to be a small town, but is not anymore.”

Asked about what they would like to see change in the future, many respondents talked about the need for more equity, diversity and affordability, Peters said.

“More housing, a concern about growth, more parks — these were things people want to see change (in a different way than) what we’re doing now.”

In responses specifically talking about Camas’ historic downtown area, Peters said many respondents were concerned about parking, a desire for more restaurants, and historic preservation.

“There were lots of concerns about Journey Church, (which recently purchased several formerly commercial building spaces in downtown Camas),” Peters added. “And we heard a lot about the paper mill, waterfront access, things like that.

Peters said the four key themes that emerged from the community visioning work — a sense of community pride and connection; environment and preserving or enhancing Camas’ natural beauty and outdoor recreation; housing and economic development; and a desire to preserve the charm and ambience of the city’s downtown — are what drove the draft vision statement unveiled during the June 12 community summit at Camas’ Lacamas Lake Lodge.

County delivers final population, employment numbers

In order to complete its comprehensive plan update required by the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA), the city of Camas first needed to understand the types of housing and employment targets it needed to meet to accommodate expected growth.

“Under the GMA’s planning framework, the City must plan consistent with growth allocations developed and adopted by Clark County,” Peters explained in his May 21 report to the Camas Planning Commission. “Under the GMA, each county uses population projections from the state … to determine, in consultation with cities, where anticipated population growth should be directed to occur. These projections are used by cities in their comprehensive planning processes to make sure that their plans can accommodate the projected level of growth.”

The Clark County Council held a public hearing May 7, Peters said, adopted the final growth allocations for each city.

“The County allocates based on the total capacity for growth using the percentage of buildable lands,” Peters explained.

In Camas, the City must plan to accommodate 7,729 new residents over the next 20 years, for a total population of 37,080 in 2045, Peters said. Other Clark County cities will need to accommodate even more new residents.

“Camas is now the second largest city in Clark County, but if growth projections are realized, Battle Ground would be larger (than Camas) in 20 years,” Peters noted.

A new state law, however, will dictate how Camas must plan for these new 7,729 residents.

According to Peters, “House Bill 1220, adopted by the Washington State Legislature in 2021, requires cities to plan for and accommodate housing affordability for all income levels, including moderate, low, very low and extremely low income, as well as emergency and permanent supportive housing,” Peters said.”

In Camas — a city that has seen significant growth in single-family homes targeted to upper-income earners — that means building more diverse types of housing in the hopes of accommodating a range of income levels, including those who earn up to 50% of the median income, those who earn between 50% and 120% of median income and those who earn over 120% median income.

According to United States Census data, in 2022, the median household income in Clark County was $91,248.

“We have to plan for higher densities (to accommodate) the housing needs in the county,” Peters said. “But our requirement does not mean that, once we reach (the needed number of single-family homes to accommodate higher-income levels) that we have to stop. That is not the case. We just have to allow for … other housing needs.”

Under the allocations adopted by the Clark County Council in May, the city of Camas will need to add 4,226 total housing units by 2045 — including 811 units for those earning between 30% and 50% median income (MI); 955 units for those earning between 50% and 80% MI; 516 units for those earning between 80% and 100% MI; 249 units for those earning between 100% and 120% MI; and 799 units for those earning over 120% MI.

Peters said these breakdowns speak to the types of housing the City must include in its zoning policies, under a rule of thumb that says most people earning up to 50% MI will likely be able to afford a multi-family, apartment-type home, while those earning between 50% and 120% MI can afford a multi-plex or duplex type of house; and those earning over 120% MI would be able to afford a single-family home.

Although, as Peters pointed out during the Planning Commission’s May 21 meeting, many of the older, single-family homes in older parts of Camas might turn out to be more affordable for lower-income earners than newer condominiums and apartments in multi-family complexes.

“The idea is that providing more housing will drive down costs,” Peters explained. “That was the argument we made to the county — that letting builders continue to build houses will still help the market by providing ownership opportunities (so that as people) vacate more affordable units, they are making those available to other people.”

The City also will have to accommodate future employment growth targets in Camas.

“The county has projected a total of 88,100 net new jobs — 66,534 of these jobs will require a physical location (land) in urban areas, 4,405 will be sited in rural areas,” Peters told the Planning Commission last month. “(The) remaining 17,162, which include work-from-home jobs, construction field jobs and government jobs, do not require additional land area for siting.”

Camas has been allocated 13,658 jobs, and must plan for land to accommodate 11,615 of those.

“We have room,” Peters told the Planning Commission regarding the city of Camas’ allocated housing and employment numbers. “The assumption is based on our current zoning.”