The city council and staff have been telling citizens that the huge park they want created alongside the 7-mile walking trail around Lacamas Lake has been part of a "30 year plan". Most recently, they used this as an excuse to spend $17 million taxpayer dollars to acquire lands owned by the Mills family and the Dens family. This completes $22 million in total spending for these "legacy lands".
Yet three years ago, former Mayor Scott Higgins told citizens his "vision" was to create a 7 mile trail around the lake that could host marathons. Citizens would enjoy daily outings on a hiking, running, and biking path. His price tag for the land acquisition -- $4.8 million. The cost to Camas would be $1.5 million. He showed this graphic to citizens.
Note the circled long, slender green "buffer" along the north side of Leadbetter Rd. The "total cost" of $4.8 million and the "net" to the city ("sponsor") of $1.5 million. Here's the video link.
Yet the city spent $17 million to acquire two much larger parcels of land, borrowing most of the money.
Even worse, the city council explained it was "part of a 30-year plan". Really?
In answering citizens questions about the Northshore development, the city provided links to various city planning documents. One was a 2007 Sewer plan -- 1,178 pages long. It was revised in November 2009 and November 2011. One page showed "future development" on the following map. It includes just a small buffer area for "green space" or "parks" along the north side of Leadbetter Rd. Just 8 years ago the "plan" was a small buffer along the north side of Lacamas Lake and Leadbetter Rd.
Clearly the larger land acquisition of the Dens and Mills and Rose and Buma properties were NOT part of the city "30 year plan" back in 2007 and 2011. As late as the 2017 Mayor Higgins "State of the Community" presentation, the "vision" was for a small buffer of green space and a 7 mile trail all the way around Lacamas Lake.
Next -- note the zoning for Northshore parcels from the Nov. 2011 city sewer plan. The "yellow" is "Urban Low Density Residential". That's the Dens property plus parcels to the east. The light "orange" parcels are zoned "Mixed use". These are the Mills, Rose and Buma parcels the city recently purchased.
How did the project morph into a huge, taxpayer funded land grab? So far, $22 million taxpayer dollars has been spent, most borrowed, which we will be paying for years.
Here's the latest version of the land-grab at our expense. Clearly, it was NOT part of the initial 30 year plan.
Even a Columbian news story about a Camas sewer system expansion showed the following major addition of sewer capacity along Leadbetter Road. Why spend millions installing a major sewer line along Leadbetter Rd. if you're going to close down Leadbetter and make hundreds of acres of parks?
Bottom line -- the "30 year plan" is revisionist history. The city's own planning documents show there was no "plan" to acquire such large amounts of property for parks or greenspace that long ago.
The city had already acquired for FREE, a nice piece of land from the Mills family in 2018. Here is a city provided graphic. The yellow parcel was "donated" by the Mills family in January 2018. The light green parcel was donated by the Wildlife League in December 2018. The smaller orange Mills parcel would have completed most of the buffer, as shown by former Mayor Higgins.
Why are citizens having to dig so deep to find out what is and isn't happening in our city? Why can't the city staff and our elected city council be straightforward about Northshore plans, and the costs for everything?
Former Mayor Higgins appeared to be honest in his 2017 "State of the Community" address -- a small greenspace buffer along the north shore for just $1.5 million of Camas taxpayer's money. When did this become a huge, $22 million land grab, funded at taxpayer expense? Who is responsible?