Freightrail bill sets up quandary for county

first_imgWhen Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5517 into law over the summer, the move was widely hailed in Clark County. The legislation is a rare modification to the state’s overarching land-use law and was praised for its potential to grow freight-oriented businesses in Clark County that could bring hundreds or even thousands of good-paying jobs.But weeks before the bill is scheduled to go into effect, the county has encountered a quandary. The county could implement it and risk litigation, or the county could initiate a process that would delay the bill’s implementation by more than a year.“Doesn’t it seem like government always takes the long way around?” said Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, the sponsor of the legislation.The state’s Growth Management Act directs counties and cities to designate and conserve agricultural and natural resource lands. The bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature, is limited to Clark and Okanogan counties. It amends the GMA, permitting each county to adopt development regulations that allow buildings and infrastructure to be developed on agricultural and natural resource land near short-line railroads. Under the law, these developments could be used for “freight rail dependent uses” by businesses that rely on short-line rail to manufacture, process, store or transport goods.Wilson called it a “jobs” and “quality of life” bill that would allow more Clark County residents to work where they live. Currently, there are 78 acres zoned for freight rail use in Clark County. Businesses have expressed interest in obtaining larger parcels along Chelatchie Prairie Railroad.“It’s a great opportunity for Clark County to lead and to show that we can be successful,” she said.The bill goes into effect Oct. 19. But during a county work session on Wednesday, county staff warned that implementing it won’t be quick or simple. Speaking to the council, Community Planning Director Oliver Orjiako said that before developments allowed for by the bill could begin, the county needs to develop a plan to solicit public comment and to conduct an environmental review.last_img read more