Area residents raise concerns with county over proposed development

Daniel Kearns, Clark County’s land use hearings examiner, approved the design for the development, titled 66th Ave. Cottages, by the Vancouver-based Ginn Group on Aug. 28. Map courtesy Clark County
Daniel Kearns, Clark County’s land use hearings examiner, approved the design for the development, titled 66th Ave. Cottages, by the Vancouver-based Ginn Group on Aug. 28. Map courtesy Clark County. View PDF here.

Clark County’s land use hearings examiner approved the design for the development, titled 66th Ave Cottages, by Ginn Group on Aug. 28

Leah Anaya
For Clark County Today

A proposed development for affordable housing in Vancouver has caused contention in the existing nearby neighborhood due to increased traffic and safety concerns, as well as potential encroachment on private property. Daniel Kearns, Clark County’s land use hearings examiner, approved the design for the development, titled 66th Ave. Cottages, by the Vancouver-based Ginn Group on Aug. 28. While the appeals deadline of 14 calendar days passed as of Sept. 11, neighbors still have a chance to file an appeal in what’s called post-decision review.

The 66th Ave. Cottages will be located in a now-vacant lot where a previous single residence has been condemned and will undergo demolition. The land was cleared of trees earlier this year and is set to host 29 “affordable housing” units. The location is on the west side of NE 66th Avenue, west of the intersection with NE 55th Street. Ginn Group conducted the required traffic study, in which they placed ingress and egress for the development at a current dead-end road off of NE 64th Avenue on NE 56th Street rather than placing it on the larger road with better line of site along NE 66th Avenue. This is one reason why existing neighbors are unhappy with the plan.

Public comments against the development in the way it’s presented were made at a public hearing in June of this year, with every single comment made being against the proposal. In his 41-page report outlining his decision to allow the development to proceed as is, Kearns stated the reason for the new point of access, as explained to him by the “applicant,” or Ginn Group. “First NE 66th Avenue is a Collector,” Kearns’ report read, “and a new subdivision access is not allowed onto a Collector when lower classification options are available, which is the case with NE 56th Street. This is required by [Clark County Code Chapter] 40.350 and is a safer alternative.” For sake of context, a “collector” in terms of roadways is a street in an urban area that sees, or “collects” heavy traffic.

Kearns stated that Ginn’s traffic study findings were backed up by Clark County’s Concurrency and Transportation Engineering, adding that NE 56th Street has “adequate capacity to safely handle the additional traffic from this development.” He also stated in the report, “While the neighbors strongly dispute these conclusions about capacity, safety and efficiency, this decision is based upon expert opinions of the duly qualified transportation engineers who have weighed-in on this matter.”

“The examiner’s comments were full of logical fallacy,” said existing current neighbor to the proposed development, Rachel Bailey, in an email to Clark County Councilors which was shared with Clark County Today. “For example, they declared the intent of the 56th Street stub was always to connect to potential future development. While true, that potential included additional intersections with 66th Avenue and for a much smaller volume of homes. It was never, not even as a stretch of the imagination, intended as a driveway for 29 households. This was a shocking statement to say the least.”

Further, Bailey indicated that there is an S-curve in the road just north of NE 56th Street, which also narrows before hitting NE 58th Street, that would cause vehicles exiting NE 56th Street to have to pull into “the Northbound traffic lane of 64th Avenue to see if they are clear of Southbound traffic.” She also stated there is already only room for one vehicle at a time in that location. “So,” she said, “if they go to take a right, they might have to stop and reverse to allow that car to get through, as well as any behind it, before they can go. With as many as 58 vehicles trying to leave for work along with everyone else on the street, how could this possibly be a viable driveway?”

Bailey commented that the traffic safety report looks good “on paper,” but said there were much better solutions than simply relocating the development access to the already crowded road. “A simple 2-or 4-way stop,” she said, “would have made this more than safe and 66th Avenue is a much clearer roadway with a long straight view in either direction that can easily handle the additional traffic and more if future developments occur.”

Current residents also argue that NE 64th Avenue at NE 56th Street, while seeing slower traffic in terms of MPH, also has a steady flow of traffic, and more vehicles on this road would greatly impede line of sight and safety given the number of cars that are typically parked along the narrow road, especially for pedestrians. 

“Not only is this going to double the traffic volume of our community, it puts pedestrians from 52nd Street especially, but throughout 64th Avenue in danger due to the significant traffic increase,” said Bailey. “The development planning was heavily focused on pedestrian safety, yet completely ignored the existing residents’ pedestrian safety concerns. Completely ignored our children who walk to the bus stops on our street.”

To that, however, Kearns stated in his report, “Pedestrian safety: As an evidentiary matter, I am obligated to rely upon the credible and expert opinions of suitably qualified traffic engineers over the lay opinions of average citizens.”

In addition to the NE 56th Street entrance not being ideal according to residents, some were told that they’re in danger of potentially losing pieces of their private property. Jennie Vaughn and Jason Campbell, for example, who are current owners of a home in the neighborhood next to the proposed development, contacted Clark County Today to discuss their concerns, which they felt were ignored by the county despite their public comments, photos, and alternative proposal. Vaughn said that she was told her fence would have to be relocated, which puts her front yard and garden in danger. “They’re using the right of way justification,” Vaughn said, “despite increase prop taxes. I have to pay more on my property taxes, and I might lose part of my land?”

Interestingly, Kearns’ report contradicts itself in this regard, first saying that the project will not encroach on private property, nor should existing homes fear removal of fences, but then saying that some fences may have to be removed and rebuilt on “the right of way line.”

“Moreover,” Kearns stated in the report, “this project will not encroach onto private property, so there should be no fear of trespass or removal of fences, landscaping or other improvements that are situated on private property.”

Later in his report, Kearns wrote, “Looking west from the approach is an existing fence within the sight distance triangle, a portion of which is within the right-of-way. To meet the sight distance standard, this fence shall be removed and rebuilt on the right of way line.”

Clark County Today has reached out to Kearns for clarification but had not heard back at the time of this report.

Lastly, Bailey has addressed concerns regarding the affordable housing intention of the development, saying it “should have a requirement for bylaws that ensure owner occupancy. Otherwise, this can simply be a way for businesses to buy up residential real estate for commercial purposes, which completely nullifies the intention of affordable homes. The direction this county is going should encourage individual ownership in real estate,” she said.

“We were told our concerns were merely sentimental and not within the examiner’s purview,” said Bailey. “The examiner treated us as though we needed to have a legal document or representation. Is it not the job of the examiner to see where existing law, such as 40.260.073 (A)(6) supports us? Or have we come to a place where the community needs a lawyer to make public comments and concerns? He deferred to the ‘experts’ he claims, but what about the expertise that comes with living in a community for a decade or more? Does our experience and firsthand knowledge of the area have no meaning anymore? Does Clark County no longer work for the taxpayers and only for the permit buyers?

“We should not have to use [Land Use Petition Act] (LUPA) for this,’’ Bailey added. “What is the point of having community input if it is completely ignored? We should not have to spend around $20,000 dollars to defend our safety in court. Now that is in fact an undue burden on us.”

Bailey, along with several other existing residents, put together a proposal that they said would “not only satisfy our concerns for safety and traffic burdens, but it would also benefit the developer and add an additional home to the cottage community.” This proposal was not accepted, nor, it appeared to the neighbors, even looked at seriously.

“We did not try to prevent development,” Bailey said. “We have reservations of course; however, we were looking for a fair compromise. We are supportive of the efforts of Clark County to alleviate the supply shortage for housing, especially affordable first-time buyer focused homes. We believe that this goal can be achieved working with existing homeowners,not in spite of us. This is a community issue and should be approached as a community, together.”

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  1. Stan Hatfield

    “Cottages” by the gonn group? Wcgw? My eobservation after 20 years in Clark county. The wealthy have done real well iin a swamp land .

  2. Elaine Armstrong

    Is this proposed site going to be affordable rentals or homes for sale? Does anyone know the price of these as I am a Realtor and a 3 bedroom 1 bath is running around $430,000 these days which makes it hard for anyone to buy with a limited down payment.


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