Port to discuss Grove Field annexation plans with public

Officials hope to bring airport into Clark County UGB

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category icon Camas, Latest News, Port of Camas-Washougal
A sign greets visitors to the Port of Camas-Washougal’s Grove Field airport north of Camas in 2020. The Port will hold an open house on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, to discuss its request to annex Grove Field into Clark County’s urban growth boundary. (Post-Record file photo)

The Port of Camas-Washougal will hold an open house from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, to provide community members with information about its request to annex Grove Field airport into Clark County’s urban growth boundary.

“We’ll have some poster boards showing some of the property, and maybe some of the commercial renderings and that (Port leaders) had up before in terms of what could happen on some of the on some of the Port properties,” said Marty Snell, a property services manager for Vancouver-based Mackay Esposito, said during a Port Commission meeting on May 1.

“We’ll probably have a couple of flip charts where we could start cataloging a frequently-asked-question list. (We’ll talk about) some parking lot issues. We do want to hear from people in terms of their hopes and fears, maybe some pros and cons of bringing the property into the urban growth boundary, what’s realistic in terms of annexation and development of property.”

Snell sent formal request letters on behalf of the Port to city of Camas and Clark County leaders in March.

“It’s a process,” Ripp said during a March 6 Port Commission workshop. “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.”

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,” Ripp said. “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 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 in March that a public outreach campaign to help residents understand the annexation process will be an important part of the process.

“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,’” he said. “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.”

Port commissioner Larry Keister told the Post-Record in March that the Port’s request, if approved, won’t annex any residential property into the city of Camas, and that if Grove Field residents want to live in the city, “they’ll have to apply, just like we do.”

“I’ll be very interested in hearing what the questions are because then we’ll know how to adjust our future discussions and meet the concerns of the community,” Keister said during the May 1 meeting. “For anything that we do, I’ve always been an advocate, the community has to know what our plans are way out front. No surprises.”

Snell said that the open house will include a “general timeline of when Camas’ comp plan concludes in December 2025” and a discussion about “what’s realistic in terms of annexation and development” of the airport property.

“I think people might have in mind, ‘Oh, this is going to happen overnight,’” Snell said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It will be kind of a slow burn. We can put a general timeline with some ‘out’ years so that people have a sense of how long is it going to be before the property actually develops for commercial development.”