Imagine a public golf course just north of Indian Trail, or soccer fields or a large park with a swimming pool. Also imagine a few thousand new residents in the same area.
Pete Raynor can visualize all that and more. He and others who own 1,700 acres of undeveloped land north of the Indian Trail neighborhood want the land absorbed into the city of Spokane’s urban growth boundary so development can occur in an orderly fashion, instead of by stripping off 10 acres at a time.
But extending the city limits would come at a cost, too. The most obvious is putting more people into an area where growth has already reduced water pressure, filled classrooms and added to traffic congestion.
Raynor and his neighbors Rod Plese, Buster Heitman, Harlan Douglass and ArLeene Patterson own a scenic stretch of rolling hills north of the BPA power lines on both sides of Indian Trail Road.
The properties extend to Rutter Parkway and the Little Spokane River on the north. It is locked in on one side by Five Mile Prairie and the other by Nine Mile Road. The elevations give a view of Lake Spokane, the Spokane River and far off Tum Tum.
“You have two miles of the most beautiful bluff you’ve ever seen,” said Raynor, owner of Beacon Hill Golf Center. “And we all border the city limits.”
A few years ago, getting vacant land annexed into the city wasn’t very difficult.
Various owners of these parcels have tried to do that, but there were always questions about sewer lines and whether or not the Indian Trail area would ever grow that far north.
Today, new homes run right up to the city limits, which stop at the power lines.
But for the past three years local governments have been in the midst of a planning process guided by the state Growth Management Act. The law requires that the city plan for only enough land to meet its 20-year population estimate.
So far, indications are that the city may be able to accommodate that growth with no expansion at all, said Charlie Dotson, city planning director.
“The fact that they want that land in the city means very little,” said Dotson.
Though the final answer is not yet known, the city so far seems able to meet its population pressures within existing boundaries.
“I think it’s safe to say that with existing data it doesn’t appear to be necessary (to expand),” said Dotson.
Cheri Rodgers, an Indian Trail resident, who sits on the city Plan Commission, said Raynor and others presented their ideas to the neighborhood task force, but most task force members felt strongly that new development should stop at the current city limits.
Indian Trail residents think there are too many problems such as congestion along Francis Avenue between Indian Trail Road and the Ash-Maple couplet.
“If they could address the transportation issue, they’d have a better chance,” said Rodgers.
Raynor said one selling point is that if the property is part of the city owners can help the growth concerns. If it develops in the county, it may add to them.
The land is in the path of an east-west arterial eyed by the county and Raynor said he and the others are willing to accommodate that arterial in developing the property. The new road would connect Nine Mile Road with Mill Road, providing an alternative to Francis Avenue.
The county has until this fall to propose interim urban growth boundaries. Those boundaries will be finalized in 1997 and could not be amended for another five years.
Heitman, a North Side home builder, said the city would be foolish not to allow some future reserve lands into its boundaries. He lives along Rutter Parkway and owns 400 acres that back up along the city limits.
That land could absorb future growth and planning could begin now.
Because the land is so isolated, it doesn’t make economic sense for any entity except the city to annex the area. The county sewer line and Whitworth Water District pipes are too far away.
The city has water and sewer lines extending nearly to the edge of the 1,700-acre parcel.
“I think there’s a real opportunity that isn’t available to other large metro areas to take 1,700 acres and plan a project from its conception,” Heitman said.
Raynor wants to develop a 110-acre golf course on his portion of land and has designed a layout that would use natural slopes and watersheds.
He’s worked for five years trying to gain support for the idea at City Hall with only limited success. To recoup some of his investment, he’s already subdivided land closest to the river into Blue Heron Estates. A dozen or so homes could be built on private roads overlooking the river.
Current laws governing land use in the unincorporated area allow him to break up the rest into 5- or 10-acre lots, each with an on-site septic disposal system. But that would do nothing for the community, he maintained.
“To do something nice with a big piece of property is impossible,” he said. “You could have soccer fields, softball fields, a school site, anything,” he said.
Patterson, who owns the largest chunk of property, agrees. Her family trust controls 640 acres that start at the city limits. She lives part of the year in a manufactured home on the land.
Like Raynor, she looks at the terrain and sees huge potential for a planned development with public places as parks, sports fields, a golf course.
“I’m glad to donate those things,” she said.
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