The city remains one of the fastest growing in the state
RIDGEFIELD — Battling through technical difficulties at the Ridgefield High School Performing Arts Center, Don Stose painted a rosy picture of Southwest Washington’s fastest-growing city.
“The future of Ridgefield is bright,” was how Mayor Stose summed things up after 50 minutes of welcoming new businesses and homeowners to town, stating how remarkably connected this community remains despite the rapid growth happening there.
And he’s not wrong. Ridgefield seems to cling to a sense of community, even as that community grows from a sleepy little town hidden along I-5, to a decent-sized city closing in on 30,000 inhabitants.
Last year, Stose noted, no fewer than eight new housing developments came online in Ridgefield. In just the first three months of this year, 40 new housing permits have been approved, with another 79 in the pipeline.
“We are on our way to another record year of welcoming new homeowners to Ridgefield,” said Stose.
But, the mayor urged his audience of mostly business leaders and elected officials, that Ridgefield holds those developments to a higher standard.
“Developers must donate twenty-five percent to the city for open space, which normally ends up being parks and trails,” said Stose, later reminding the crowd that “no one else in Clark County has that mandate.”
Stose also noted that Ridgefield has a high bar when it comes to design standards for new homes, requires Homeowners’ Associations for subdivisions, and LED lighting designed to limit light pollution.
The city has also committed to building at least one mile of new walking and biking trails each year, something they’ve managed to keep up with over the past decade.
“Our promise to you is that we will have connectivity, at some point in time, with all of our trails throughout the city of Ridgefield,” said Stose, noting that the long-awaited North Main Street pedestrian overpass, connecting downtown with the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, will finally break ground this Spring.
The Refuge itself will be getting some upgrades as well. Stose noted that city leaders have consistently visited Washington D.C. for nearly a decade now, urging lawmakers to address the need for a new visitor’s center at the 5,200-acre wildlife reserve.
“This year I’m proud to announce that the Federal government has put together a multi-year funding proposal to build a new visitor’s center,” announced the mayor.
Stose has been mayor for just under a year, taking over after Ron Onslow stepped away from the job last March. Onslow remains an active member of the city council and serves as co-chair of the Regional Transportation Council.
Stose takes over as Ridgefield is on the cusp of a number of major milestones. Chief among them, at least as far as residents with children are concerned, is the opening of the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex, affectionately known as RORC.
The complex was built as a partnership between Ridgefield School District, which needed fields for the new K-8 and Primary school building, and the city, which wanted a place for the community to come and play. Stose says the city saved around $2 million, and the school district likely saved at least $5 million.
That doesn’t mean it was free though. RORC, which features six sports fields, a two-story community center, picnic tables, parking, and more, had a price tag of just over $20 million.
While the city took out bonds to fund some of the construction initially, Stose says the money ultimately comes “100 percent from fees on new development. That’s important.”
The fields and meeting rooms in the community center can be reserved, for a fee, but Stose says during normal park hours, unrented fields will be free for anyone to use.
RORC will also be home to the Ridgefield Raptors, a wood bat league baseball team, set to have their home opener on June 4 of this year.
The other major milestone coming this year will be the opening of the first Rosauers supermarket in western Washington state. The company’s CEO, COO, and project director were on hand at the State of the City address, as Stose said he had some breaking news to announce.
“When Rosauers opens we are going to have, in Ridgefield, the largest tailgate party that anyone has ever seen in Southwest Washington,” Stose said to rousing applause.
Across Pioneer Street from Progress Ridge and the Rosauers supermarket will be Pioneer Village, with a 300-unit apartment complex set to open sometime this year. Stose says Trapdoor Brewing, a major brewery and restaurant, is slated to open there, along with other mixed-use commercial development and a new 10-acre park.
There is also a new hotel and restaurant set to come to Ridgefield Crossing, across from the Columbia Credit Union, as well as a number of new or expanded businesses along the east side of I-5, including a doggy daycare business called Camp Bow-Wow.
Ridgefield is also set to break ground on a new police station at Mill and Main later this year, and a new Vancouver Clinic will open west of I-5 this coming Summer.
The Junction is also where Clark College’s Boschma Farms location is set to begin construction on a new campus at some point in the future. With outgoing college President Bob Knight in the room, Stose said the city had to fight last year to get funding for the project from the state legislature.
“We were there a lot,” said Stose. “We found out which legislators, what their lattes were, and we were there before they got to work.”
Ultimately, they secured some funding, but Stose says they’ve been told again this year that they’re just falling short of getting the money they need.
“We’ve already been there once, and we’ll be there as much as it takes to get that funding for Clark College,” Stose said.
Assuming nothing major changes in the near future, it appears as if Ridgefield’s growth rate is poised to only accelerate. The Port of Ridgefield is working on plans for a major redevelopment of their property along the railroad tracks and working to install a dark fiber network in hopes of attracting high tech jobs to the area.
The rate of growth is sure to remain a controversial topic for those who’ve called Ridgefield home for more than a few years, but Stose said their goal is to preserve and even improve the existing quality of life while welcoming new people to the area. He said they aim to do that through a strong Main Street program, community events like the Big Paddle, First Saturday, and more, and encouraging churches and businesses who give back to the area.
So far, he said, the plan seems to be working. At least for Tuesday night, the crowd at the Ridgefield High School Performing Arts Center seemed to agree.