Royce was right

On Sunday, Aaron Corvin and I had a story about the lack of large lots available for businesses or, as the bureaucrats call it, employment land. Instead of just giving a summary of the latest study by the Columbia River Economic Development Council, we wanted to put the study in a larger context.

Our rough draft was 4,000 words. Business editor Courtney Sherwood artfully cut that draft to 2,200 words, which is good for two reasons:

  1. There is a finite amount of space in the newspaper.
  2. Only the bureaucrats would read all 4,000 words.

So a lot was cut. Just bear with me while I share just one of the scraps: Royce was right.

My sources didn’t come out and say that in so many words. But in trying to help me understand why it has taken eight years to reach an agreement on getting sewer lines to Ridgefield, when people have been talking about the Discovery Corridor for even longer than that, they told me that the county didn’t want to pay for infrastructure just to have Ridgefield and Battle Ground annex the improved land, stick retail on it and then joyfully count the sales tax revenue.

Commissioner Marc Boldt told me that former Commissioner Betty Sue Morris proposed a revenue-sharing agreement, but that failed. Each jurisdiction wants retail for the sales tax.

I’m getting closer to my point about Royce being right (see why I need an editor?)

Can’t the county commissioners rise above those arguments? I asked. They have the power to open up land for development. Shouldn’t they be thinking as the county as a whole?

They should. But the commissioners also need the retail sales tax revenue to help pay for urban services for people in unincorporated Vancouver. For example, the 23,000 people who live in Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek and Felida.

Under the state Growth Management Act, people who live in urban areas should be in cities. And cities should use sales tax revenues to help pay for urban areas.

In 2005, a legislative proposal to simplify the way cities absorb neighborhoods didn’t get a hearing but stirred up anxiety among unincorporated residents who thought Royce Pollard, mayor of America’s Vancouver, was coming to get them.

“There is no secret attack being planned by Royce Pollard,” he said at the time. He pointed to the good urban services those residents receive and said they shouldn’t be so nervous.

“Relax,” he said in a 2005 interview.

He added that inevitably the communities will join the city because they fall within Vancouver’s urban growth area, which was drawn in accordance with the Growth Management Act. That’s the way it should be, he said. Urban areas should be served by cities. Under the GMA, counties should not be providing urban services.

He didn’t see it happening for another five to 10 years.

And here it is, 2012. And there’s no talk of annexation. Why would people in Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek and Felida want to be annexed into Vancouver? (Full disclosure: I live in west Hazel Dell.) What would be the benefit to residents? Nothing.

But having people live in unincorporated urban areas did lead to this prolonged argument over retail, which has delayed getting sewer lines to Ridgefield where they are badly needed for the employment lands.

Thank you for sticking with me this far. As a reward I’ll end with the caricature of Pollard one of our former graphic artists drew for the 2005 story about annexation anxiety.


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