Friday, March 15, 2019

Unincorporated Growth Driving Need for Annexation

The Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) for Vancouver is being built out out a rapid pace. This is creating an ever increasing urban population in unincorporated areas. The level of services and infrastructure provided at the county level is rarely as solid as that at a municipal level, yet Vancouver is nearly HALF unincorporated and will likely be more than half in the next decade if the city and county don't pull their heads out of the dark and stinky.

UGB Map from City of Vancouver Website
This is not intended as a insult to the Clark County government but rather more of an urban planning and development issue. Right now Vancouver is made up of land spread across more than a dozen zip codes with roughly 325,000 residents. Of those only 57% live in the incorporated city of Vancouver. It is safe to say that 90% of those living outside the city limits are living in a mostly urbanized area. Sure there are several thousand living in the "country" out in Proebstel and north of Barberton, but the overwhelming majority are in underdeveloped URBAN unincorporated areas that for the most part, are not well planned out communities. This is unacceptable behavior at the government level both City and County.

The city of Vancouver is already the de facto second largest city in the state. If the city would complete the Orchards annexation that was supposed be done over a decade ago the city would be the actual in-fact second largest in the state. Why does this matter? Simply put, large cities are noticed by companies looking to expand, move their HQ, build factories, and create JOBS, good jobs, not just service sector jobs. More than 50,000 Clark County residents commute into Oregon (mostly to Portland) to work each day. I would venture a bet that NONE of them are happy about the drive, nor paying Oregon's egregiously abusive state income tax. It is too easy to bring jobs here, yet our leaders seem to be a bit uninterested. To the great credit of the the city and the last three Mayors, the downtown and waterfront renewal has been outstanding and there are not enough kudos to go round for it.

Vancouver has an excellent port, wonderful rail connections, substantial amounts of available industrial land, better schools (than Portland), better quality of life, lower cost of living, frankly it's better in every measurable metric than Portland. Yet there go those 50,000 plus residents driving across that crappy old bridge into the clutches of the Rose City. I blame our county and city leaders. They are failing us on this botched annexation schedule and on jobs.

We need not wait for the new bridge, in fact if we took half of those commuters off the bridges we wouldn't need to replace it anyway, other than the fact that it is old. Oregon is making a move to "punish" Vancouver and Clark County commuters by trying to toll I-5 and I-205. Originally they wanted to toll the area south of Portland, but a new movement targeting Clark County has arisen with a notion to toll the North Portland and NE Portland areas instead.

Clark County and in particular Vancouver needs to focus on attracting medium to large employers from Portland and Washington County and beyond the region. I'm referring to companies with skilled labor and professional positions that pay well. I'm not talking about little 50-100 employee ops although those are fine, we can attract bigger 500-1000 employee operations, we have the space, and their employees will be MUCH happier on the north shore of the mighty Columbia. Portland is not exactly business friendly. Getting noticed is a big part of the equation, the Waterfront has attracted attention for the better and now we need to annex those areas already served by Vancouver's city utilities and move from mid-size to large city without a single new resident moving in. It's not about more growth, it's about capitalizing on the growth we have already had. Vancouver is already a large city, the people are already here, the city just hasn't recognized them yet. 

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