Together, we can make Clark County an even better place to live and work.
The following are my three main values, which I will use to guide decisions on the Clark County Council.
1. Keep It Rural:
Does Keep It Rural mean zero development? Of course not.
Does it mean better, more balanced development that we can afford, and revitalizing rural economies? Yes.
There is a path to keeping Clark County a place that we all cherish and want to live and work. We can slow the expansion of urban growth boundaries into our rural areas, compensate rural landowners, and create new walkable communities and job centers where they belong.
One of the most important things a county councilor does is determine where the urban growth boundaries are located. Please look at these Clark County maps to see how our urban growth boundaries have expanded over time.
Vancouver's city limits and urban growth boundaries are now 10 miles east of downtown, pushed up against the westward limits of Camas’ boundaries. Now it appears that the only place to grow is north.
Should we keep growing our endless urban sprawl north until we hit the shores of the East Fork Lewis River, or further?
Should our County become one big sprawled out city? No.
But if we keep going the way we’re going with the same leadership, it will.
We can Protect Private Property Rights for Clark County
Currently, the only option for farmers and rural landowners just outside the urban growth boundaries is to subdivide their land. However, there is a way to compensate these landowners to keep their land just the way it is and preserve the rural character that we all love. With it, we can support the rural economies that started Clark County, helping forest products industries and local, sustainable producers of dairy, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Under Washington law, Clark County can make standing agreements with cities like Vancouver, Camas and Battle Ground to allow for the transfer and selling of development rights or credits.
Willing landowners with farms, forests, and open spaces that we want to conserve (determined through public input) can be compensated $15,000-$25,000 an acre by voluntarily selling their development rights and thereby generating income and credits. Those credits are then used to incentivize denser developments within the urban growth boundaries. Landowners and developers who decide to purchase these credits can then pursue denser, more lucrative developments than they would otherwise under current zoning regulations.
Walkable Communities for Clark County
By planning far into the future, we can map out visions of the communities we want to create. These walkable communities might look like Battle Ground Village, where compact townhomes and cottages on smaller lots are within walking distance of the library, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, and jobs.
Under this plan everybody wins, including the rural landowner, the developer, the homeowner, the small business owner, and the taxpayer -- and we get to keep our rural charm.
This model is just one tool, but it has successfully worked in six other Washington counties and in more than 32 states, and it can work here in Clark County. We need to elect people who will think out-of-the-box and make solutions like these happen.
2. Promote Local Jobs:
How we build determines where our jobs will be located. If we continue to focus mostly on building large subdivisions of homes without local jobs anywhere nearby, we will only be destroying our open spaces and rural economy for people who don't work here.
Employers want to come to places that make economic sense for their businesses, but they also want to locate where their employees will be happy, have walkable neighborhoods and affordable housing, and enjoy their neighborhood and surrounding rural areas.
Wouldn’t this be a nice change from the endless strip malls and haphazard development that we currently see in places like East Vancouver?
The Clark County Council will not accomplish this by approving every zoning change proposed by developers, which continues to eat away at our rural character. But with better long-term planning, we can maximize our potential to create attractive urban centers, grow resources like our Port and industrial areas, protect rural resource-based jobs, and maintain the places we love.
A Community Effort
To create this new vision, we need to work with our planners and with you -- the public. Together, we will look for places where we can create new walkable urban centers with homes, family-wage jobs, retail, and entertainment within a smaller footprint. And we will look rural areas we want to maintain, where we can promote the rural economy that produces our local forest and agricultural products.
Selling and transferring development credits, as discussed above, is one way to incentivize these cost-saving solutions and compensate private landowners fairly -- without burdening you the taxpayer.
We can still have a beautiful, and more affordable, Clark County if we roll up our sleeves, try something new, and get to work.
3. Fiscally Conservative:
I believe in small, efficient government. We have all heard about government waste and overspending, and I have seen it firsthand when I worked for the federal government in Washington, DC.
As your County Councilor in charge of the County’s budget, I will keep an eye out for inefficiencies and work hard to prioritize our resources. One result of inappropriate growth in our rural areas is the extra costs of the infrastructure, transportation, and services required to reach these areas. My plan would place additional growth close to existing infrastructure, ensuring that our limited financial resources are focused on the most important County services.
We can save money without sacrificing urban growth and development, and while sustaining a strong labor force that provides family-wage salaries and benefits.
Helping Our Neighbors and Youth
The County provides many essential services that we take for granted in our everyday lives, including roads, bridges, law enforcement, public health, and parks and trails.
There are also important County resources reserved for struggling families and the homeless. As a compassionate Christian, I feel that we need to provide adequate services to our residents most in need. This will be all the more critical in the coming months and years following the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also must focus on our youth, who have unique challenges that our education system alone cannot provide. I have been a Big Brother, a volunteer for at-risk youth, a Scout Leader, and currently work to support nonprofits providing education opportunities for our youngest kids. As a community, we need to support efforts like these that will uplift our families, provide needed resources and mental health services, and create affordable housing so that our kids can succeed and become our future community leaders.
In all of this, we must be careful with our limited finances and avoid dependency on County resources. As an independent and conservative fiscal manager, I will work to help find solutions that provide an appropriate balance to these values and interests, and focus on keeping our families and businesses intact.
Together we can make a better Clark County without draining our bank accounts!
Nobody likes property taxes, but they fund many of the County resources described above. My goal would always be to efficiently manage the County’s expense side first. I will work to avoid increasing property taxes, and if necessary, look for innovative ways to increase revenue without putting additional burdens on Clark County residents.
Thank you for taking the time to read this page. More updates can be found by following me at www.facebook.com/ElectMattLittle.