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The Gee Creek Subarea Plan: Balancing Urban Development with Rural Preservation

The Gee Creek Plateau is an unincorporated rural area of about 360 acres.

On one hand, population growth often means more jobs and economic prosperity. On the other hand, untrammeled growth can ruin the very environment that people seek in rural areas: peaceful surroundings, opportunities for agriculture, an appreciation of natural environments, and a more relaxed way of life. The Gee Creek Plateau was formerly called the “donut hole” because it is an island of unincorporated land surrounded by the southwest incorporated part of the city of Ridgefield, Washington. As one of the fastest growing cities in Washington, Ridgefield has become a popular place to live and work. Residents understand the need for additional development to support the growing population and provide economic opportunities; however, there is also a desire to preserve the rural character and scenic views for future generations.

To honor the wishes of the current residents, the Ridgefield City Council started a subarea planning process to create a unique plan for this area. The City selected BergerABAM to engage the community and establish a plan to support future residential development and the required transportation and utility infrastructure improvements.

To do this, Nicole McDermott, Don Hardy, and Scott Keillor of BergerABAM’s Vancouver office worked with the City and subarea stakeholders to establish a vision and guiding principles for the subarea and then developed land use alternatives.

Throughout the planning process, the BergerABAM team worked closely with a stakeholder advisory group to develop a plan that addressed the City’s residential needs while adhering to the stakeholders’ wish to preserve the area’s rural character and agricultural land. The plan included a unique approach to future land development—a residential cluster concept was proposed for a large portion of the subarea, which enables the City to meet the density targets established by Washington State’s Growth Management Act while preserving significant acreage for open space and agricultural uses. The subarea plan also recommended transportation improvements to support future development, as well as trail connections and future park locations. Once this plan was developed, the BergerABAM team recommended strategies for plan implementation, including City policy and development code amendments and capital improvements.

The Gee Creek Plateau Subarea Plan was adopted in November 2017 with unanimous support from the Ridgefield City Council. Through a robust outreach process and a commitment to the vision established, the BergerABAM team was able to work with the City and stakeholders to develop a plan that was supported by the community and can preserve the rural way of life for those living in the Gee Creek area of Ridgefield.