Camas received a $100,000 grant to do a Housing Study. I did a post on Next Door I’ll include below so I won’t belabor that. What I want to talk about is the response I got from the consultant, and what it might mean.
I made the point you can’t do a Housing Study until you know where the employment center of a City is. Simple? Not in Camas right now. This City seems hell bent on creating a new employment center on the North Shore. You figure any study of the need and location of affordable housing is highly dependent on where the jobs will be.
City staff are still marching along the path of ignoring Downtown in favor of the North Shore. One expects this message staff gives to this Consultant: Do your Housing Study per the outcome of Camas’ big employment center moving to the North Shore. Ignore our Downtown: That is only for cute shops and services and the remaining activity of the Mill. Nothing more will happen at the Mill.
I sent the consultant a thoughtful email along with a link to the Guest Column I did for the Post-Record. I’ve had great reaction to it over the past few months. Most has been thanks for bringing this core planning issue up. Since it was published the City had its first “visioning” workshop for the North Shore. We were all surprised how the popular sentiment expressed was the North Shore is not the place for massive growth in Camas. City staff doesn’t talk about this. Rather, people are making “excuses” for why this happened and why it doesn’t matter and doesn’t change plans for North Shore growth.
I was flat out told: Untill the City Council says otherwise, City staff is not hearing this direction from the community.
A question I put out is “why do we bother having this participation other than it is required?” As I see it, the City and this Consultant have private meetings to develop the roadmap. The consultant will do their study to support this roadmap. The public participation will be to “sell” this roadmap to the public.
Exactly what was done for the Aquatic Center.
The City of Camas seismically shifted this last election. Mayor Turk, North Shore development supporter, was removed as was her North Shore related project. We have a new Mayor and a new Councilmember. Both talked about taking a second look at the North Shore/Downtown relationship. Yet staff plods on spending money on a direction we don’t want to go.
I tried to provide background to this consultant based on 40-years of professional work. I was politely told: “If you need more information in the meantime, please contact Sarah Fox at the City (copied on this email).” I answered back, politely, “I would hope your “case of first impression” about this critical Housing Study, and the where this City’s residents are, is not limited to staff.”
Fellow Camasonians, our work is far from done. Our new Mayor and councilmember need our support to finish the job of making this City responsive to its citizens. Let them know how you feel and support their efforts. Make Camas our City. Say no to another backroom deal like the Aquatic Center.
Here’s what I sent the consultant, copying the Mayor.
Melissa — Congratulations on getting the Camas contract. Decisions on our housing needs and styles will drive our City’s future. The study you are preparing will provide key information on that future.
I want to introduce myself as an involved Camas resident active in planning issues. Specifically, whether Camas should respect its mill-oriented Downtown roots, or see the employment center shift to the upland North Shore of Lacamas Lake. I wrote a guest column for the local paper. I’ll include the link and won’t repeat that information.
I will say this is fast becoming a large and looming issue. The decision last year to do the North Shore sub-area plan, instead of Downtown, was controversial and close. Since that time we have a new Mayor. This was through a most incredible and unheard reaction to Camas’ direction. This Mayor may be more centered to the type of Downtown-oriented outcome I talk about in my column.
The current staff position is not reflective of this shift in direction. Per Sara Fox in an e-mail to me in response to my guest column, as well as the outcome of a public “visioning” workshop that surprised everyone: "it is my job to follow the direction of our elected council. That is the role of staff.” I have asked the new Council to revisit this decision.
Camas is at a true fork in the road. Staff, led by the North Shore landowners, is still leading towards the North Shore. The community may be in a different place.
I hope you design your public participation sensitive to this issue, and reach out to many people roused into robust involvement resulting from the unheard of defeat, by 90%, of an ill-advised Aquatic/Community center that veered away from Camas’ Historic and present Downtown. The rejection of an unopposed Mayor, who was an active supporter of North Shore development, by a last-minute write-in candidate frames the larger issue. He beat the sitting Mayor by 12%. Unheard of. It’s all about change and hearing the people. They spoke.
I look forward to talking with you about this. Welcome to Camas!