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Spin Control

Planning Commish punts some cluster rules

Some proposed changes in rural housing developments known as clusters will have to be decided by Spokane County commissioners. The county planning commission, with only four of its seven members present, deadlocked Thursday on some of the more controversial changes, including whether to ban the developments in what's known as small tract agricultural zones.

If all that makes you go "Huh?", you probably live in a city, where changes in the suburban and rural landscape are something you notice on that yearly trip to Green Bluff to buy apples and pumpkins.

But it is a hot topic in rural areas. Simply put, cluster development is a practice of grouping the yards and homes into one or two spots on a large tract of land and leaving the rest of it open, as opposed to subdividing it into larger lots spread out across the whole tract. In some cases, a developer can get extra housing parcels, but in others they get the same number of houses, just not so spread out.

Some think clusters are a good thing; others think of them with the Army term that starts with cluster and ends with a word that in military jargon is "foxtrot."

Thursday, the Planning Commission split 2-2 ...

. . . on whether to ban cluster development in areas set aside for small tract agricultural uses.

This was a restriction that had significant support in one of the county's biggest small tract farm areas, Green Bluff.

The commission also deadlocked on requiring the clusters to be set back from county roads, on whether to establish stricter design guidelines and on setting up new design guidelines and on requiring conservation easements for open spaces.

It did recommend guidelines for what the open space can be used form and recommended doubling the minimum size of each lot within the cluster, to two acres.

So both sides will have to keep their powder dry for the next phase of the process, a decision on the recommendations by the County Board of Commissioners. But of course you all knew that, because the Planning Commission is an advisory group, and the Board of Commissioners have the final say on all of these matters.

Stay tuned.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.