After a flurry of last-minute appeals from developers, Spokane County commissioners doubt they can make a key land-use decision before the end of the year.
The delay could affect the way the county grows for the next 20 years.
Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing Friday to consider urban growth boundaries.
The boundaries, required under the state’s Growth Management Act, will determine where urban development is encouraged and where it is banned. They are supposed to be just large enough to provide homes for the 120,000 people expected to come to Spokane in the next 20 years.
Any delay of that hearing, which already is three months overdue, means lame duck Commissioner Steve Hasson won’t help set the boundaries. Commissioner-elect Kate McCaslin will replace Hasson on Jan. 1.
Many developers and environmentalists believe McCaslin would vote to draw the urban growth boundaries much wider than Hasson would, leaving more room for development. The crowd at McCaslin’s swearing-in last Tuesday included many critics of growth management.
Between 2:15 and 4:15 p.m. last Friday, nine developers paid $225 fees and filed appeals of the environmental impact statement written when a committee of nine local officials was studying potential boundaries for the urban growth areas. The deadline for filing those appeals was 5 p.m.
Commissioners will meet at 9:30 this morning to decide whether the issues raised in those appeals are serious enough that they should delay Friday’s meeting.
“It’s more probable than not that the Dec. 27 hearing can’t be held,” said Commissioner Phil Harris, who has argued for months that the county should delay the hearing.
Hasson and Commissioner John Roskelley have pushed to set the urban growth boundaries this year - Roskelley because he favors denser urban development to protect rural areas and Hasson because he wants to be part of the decision.
At least three county planners canceled holiday vacations to attend Friday’s meeting, said Public Works Director Dennis Scott.
The meeting, if it is held and draws as big a crowd as commissioners expect, may be continued until Monday, Dec. 30. Then, planners would have to scramble to write the documents so Hasson could sign them before midnight Dec. 31.
Usually, “it takes several manhours to do that” and can take as long as several days, said Scott.
Developers filing appeals Friday include Harley Douglass, Robert Heitman, Dahm Development and F.J. Dullanty Jr., who represents Liberty Lake Land Co.
Among the complaints raised:
That the city of Spokane did not adequately study the land it says is available for development within the city limits. City officials say those vacant lots could provide space for thousands of houses. Critics say many are too steep, rocky or wet to be developed.
That the environmental impact statement did not adequately consider traffic, affordable housing and other issues.
That some information in the environmental impact statement was not discussed during public hearings.
That informal meetings between Roskelley and City Council members Phyllis Holmes and Roberta Greene violated the state’s open-meetings laws. The trio was trying to work out differences between the city and the county over the location of the urban growth boundaries.
Lila Howe, a former county commissioner candidate and growth management critic, questioned the propriety of the meetings earlier this month. County attorneys told Howe the meetings didn’t violate any laws because the three officials didn’t have decision-making authority.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color) Map: Urban Growth Areas