Port hopes to annex airport into Camas

Officials say Clark County must first annex Grove Field into its urban growth boundary

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A rendering shows how the Port of Camas-Washougal hopes to develop Grove Field if it is someday annexed into the city of Camas. (Contributed graphic courtesy of the Port of Camas-Washougal)

The Port of Camas-Washougal is asking Clark County to annex Grove Field into the county’s urban growth boundary, a necessary first step in the Port’s quest to bring the airport into Camas’ city limits.

Marty Snell, a property services manager for Vancouver-based Mackay Esposito, will send formal request letters to city of Camas and Clark County leaders by next week, according to Port Chief Executive Officer David Ripp.

“It’s a process,” Ripp said. “Right now, we’re not in Clark County’s urban growth boundary, so we have to go through that process first. All public agencies, including Clark County and the city of Camas, are currently updating their comprehensive plans, so the timing works out. Our end goal is to get annexed into the city of Camas. You have to be in the urban growth boundary to be annexed into the City. Our airport property is adjacent and already tied to the North Shore, which is in the city limits, so it makes sense.”

The airport possesses additional elements that could be viewed as favorable by both agencies, according to Snell.

“(The land) is physically touching the city limits now, which is a good thing,” Snell said during a Port Commission workshop, Wednesday, March 6. “It doesn’t have any environmental constraints that other properties have. And another important piece is that we know long-term there’s going to be some transportation improvements on (state Route) 500, so you’ll have good access to that site. That’s an important consideration.”

Grove Field houses about 120 aircraft and includes 79 public hangars and 14 tie-downs and a self-service fueling facility, as well as 18 private hangars on land leased from the Port and several private hangars on surrounding properties.

Ripp said the Port hopes to develop “airport-related businesses and other businesses” at Grove Field that would “create new jobs and tax base for our community.”

“We want to create more jobs and develop the land up there,” he added. “It’ll be more of a light industrial business park; maybe there will be a commercial aspect to it as well. Our goal is economic development. Our goal is to create jobs. And if we want to develop some of that property out there, this is what we have to do.”

That’s because Clark County does not provide all of the services the Port needs in order to develop the airport, Ripp said.

“For the development we need, we need the (city of Camas) to be a part of this,” he said. “The county will (bring the land into the urban growth boundary), and then two or three years later, the City, when they have services out there, can annex the airport property into the city, and then we can get city services. We have City water service — toilets and drinkable water — out there now, but we can’t really develop that property until we have fire flow (water needed to fight a fire) and sewer.”

Ripp said Clark County councilors will make their decision on the Port’s request in 2025, most likely in the second half of the year.

“The big thing is looking at the population, looking at services, looking at how many acres of residential, how many acres of commercial, how many acres of industrial and making sure that the City can serve those numbers,” Ripp said. “The big key is we’re not looking at annexing in residential property. Residential increases a lot of services on the entity. This is all jobs land that we want to do. And we’re not taking any agricultural land or anything like that. It’s all already zoned.”

After the property is brought into the urban growth boundary, the city of Camas could annex it in 2028, Ripp said.

“That will be another process,” he said. “The City will not approve annexation until they know they can provide services. Water and sewer are the two big services, but with the development of North Shore, it will come to fruition.”

Ripp said that the Port will launch a public outreach process to help residents understand the annexation process.

“We’re going to have several open houses to make sure we’re making the neighbors aware of what we’re going to do and get input and all of that,” Ripp said. “Some people feel that, ‘I don’t want to live within the city limits because it restricts me,’ or, ‘I’m on a well, I don’t want to lose my well.’ They won’t lose their well. You don’t have to hook in. If you’re in the city limits, you can still remain on your septic and water system as long as they continue to work, unless you go, ‘I’m going to build a new house.’ Then you’re required to do that. But if nothing changes, you can continue to maintain and use your well, and you will never have to hook into the City.”