Incorporation Campaigners Try New Approach Smaller, Smarter Efforts May Turn Tide In String Of Defeats

Valley voters have said no to incorporation three times in the 1990s, but proponents of two separate efforts to form cities in the Spokane Valley hope they will finally say yes this spring.

Ed Meadows, who is heading a bid to incorporate the city of Opportunity, cites strong support at the polls for previous incorporation proposals by residents of that proposed city as reason for optimism.

Arne Woodard, an Evergreen proponent, says that proposed city’s smaller, smarter campaign will make it more attractive to voters than past attempts to incorporate.

But a Tuesday decision by the county auditor to conduct the incorporation election by mail has proponents fearing that incorporation could go down in defeat for a fourth time.

Whether voters agree with Meadows and Woodard remains to be seen. People living within the boundaries of the two proposed cities vote on incorporation on May 21.

Proponents of both efforts are relying heavily on door-to-door campaigns and a few community meetings to push their proposals over the top. The benefits of such an effort are twofold, they say.

First, it saves something neither incorporation effort has a lot of - money. Second, it helps proponents collect feedback from all of the residents of the proposed cities.

“We really get a finer feel for what specifically our citizens want,” Woodard said.

In recent years, that has not been incorporation. In 1990, 1994 and again in 1995, voters shot down efforts to incorporate large portions of the Valley.

This time will be different, proponents promise.

One of the most notable differences is size. Previous incorporation proposals included much larger areas and involved much larger populations, one upwards of 90,000.

However, there are several similarities between the current effort and past attempts.

Both Opportunity and Evergreen would have a strong mayor form of government, with seven-member city councils. That’s the same type of government suggested in previous attempts. Proponents also will recommend annexing to existing fire and library districts and contracting with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department for police services.

The issues are similar as well.

Proponents say incorporating would give Valley residents a greater say in local land use decisions and better government representation.

Currently, proponents say, the Valley lacks clout in local government because it has no formal representation on most county boards and committees. Valley residents pay out more in taxes than is spent here providing government services, they add.

“We’re basically subsidizing the rest of the county,” Woodard said.

History would seem to favor Opportunity.

The proposed city of 19,000 is at the center of the Valley. At the heart of the proposed city’s mostly residential, older, middle-class neighborhoods is the Sprague Avenue commercial strip.

Major sources of property and sales tax revenue would be University City Shopping Center, the Appleway Subaru and Mazda car dealerships and the Shopko and Target discount stores.

The Valley’s busiest intersection - Pines and Sprague, through which more than 100,000 cars travel each day - also would be smack in the middle of Opportunity. Valley Hospital and Medical Center and Spokane Valley Fire Station No. 1 also are within its boundary.

Local government - which is what proponents claim incorporation is all about - probably would be housed in the old Opportunity Township Hall.

“We think it’s better to have our neighbors represent our six square miles,” Meadows said.

The road so far for Evergreen has been less smooth.

First, proponents trimmed the proposed city’s boundaries last summer to remove possible opposition. The cuts reduced the land area of Evergreen by nearly two-thirds and the population by 11,000. Still, much of the land is undeveloped.

Then, a request by proponents last month to add Terrace View and Sullivan parks to their proposal was denied by the Boundary Review Board. There are no public parks within Evergreen, but portions of the Centennial Trail do run through the proposed city.

The city of 15,000 would be mostly residential, with some commercial areas along Sprague Avenue and the Sullivan corridor. Backers are confident that several fast-food restaurants and stores will be ample sources of property and sales tax revenue.

Valley Fire Station No. 7 at 12th Avenue and Evergreen Road is inside the proposed city’s boundaries.

Unlike Opportunity, incorporation has never received strong support in the proposed city of Evergreen.

But Evergreen proponents shrugged off the negative response as a learning experience.

“The people are looking at this incorporation differently than they have others simply because we have focuses on issues pertinent to Evergreen,” Woodard said.

The May elections will mark the fourth time Valley residents have voted on incorporation this decade. Both Opportunity and Evergreen must garner 50 percent of the votes plus one to become cities.

“Maybe they will give us a break this time,” Meadows said.

Regardless of whether the incorporation proposals pass or fail, changes in the way the Valley is governed are inevitable, proponents said.

“It’s going to change regardless of what happens,” Woodard said. “Hopefully we can have a positive effect on what happens.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos


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