Photo Credit by Alicia Meyers King
Even when the community thinks trees are protected, they are not. Among trees “protected” by the approval of Green Mountain in a “retention zone”, they were removed anyway. This “protected” tree started its life before Camas was even a city, Photo by Ken Miles.
In Spring 2019, shortly before Camas’ world began going in a wrong direction with the failed Aquatic Center, something now forgotten was an unfortunate turning point in Camas’ future. A small controversial subdivision in the 43rd Ave area of Prune Hill proposed major cutting of forest canopy. The Hearing Examiner actually did the right thing: imposing conditions protective of the forest canopy and the on-site wetland. Growth management in Camas was looking good for a change. The founder of Camas Tree Protecters “felt relieved by the decision.”
Then the developer pounded their chest and threatened to sue. Our elected leadership chose to buckle to this developer’s bravado and not support the Hearing Examiner’s decision. So concerned were citizens that a “sit in” was held that summer. While doomed (the city’s agreement giving in to the developer was final), the event was covered in the Post-Record.
Why didn’t the city negotiate with the developer and save some of the larger trees (shown after cutting) on the heavily-wooded lot as per the Hearing Officer’s recommendation? Perhaps timing? The Mayor’s attention was laser-focused on efforts to pass the $73 million dollar bond for the proposed aquatic center (which ultimately failed).
Was there simply no interest in supporting the community and our resources? It certainly looks that way. Thus began a series of worsening decisions by our City, leading to the November 2019 shocker of an election which resulted in the ouster of the Mayor and the firing of the City Manager.
Photo by Alicia Meyers King.
A short year later a detox center was proposed that would be located next to a local elementary school. The project was roundly denounced by the neighborhood and plenty of other Camas citizens. This time, the Hearing Officer sided with the City, in favor of the Center. This time, the City had no qualms about spending the monies to resolve the legal suit brought by the city’s own citizens.
For the second time, the City chose development over the concerns of its own community. More recently, our elected officials have again chosen to side against community outcry by allowing a developer to remove a large, landmark tree in a new development
Camas Growth Management needs to be turned around and quickly. There must be balance between a community’s concerns and development. That will involve some assertiveness and creative thinking.
What does Camas want? We’ve all had enough of growth not making accommodations to protecting neighborhoods and natural resources.
Washington State Planning Law requires Camas to accept some substantial growth limited to an Urban Growth Boundary. Goals (1) and (2) state:
(1) Urban growth. Encourage development in urban areas where adequate public facilities and services exist or can be provided in an efficient manner.
(2) Reduce sprawl. Reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development.
The state provides discretion on where housing units go. What does Camas want? Camas should focus on our Downtown’s long-term needs and potential, to meet goals (1) and (2) to include some substantial housing sustainably built consistent with Downtown’s character
It’s time for a new and smarter vision of growth management in Camas.
More people are dissatisfied (41%) than satisfied (32%) with growth-management in Camas. Camas wants better growth-management and support for our communities and natural resources. Let’s get it done.