June 9, 1996 in City

Drawing A New Set Of Lines Spokane County Needs To Look To The Future And Your Input Is Part Of The Plan

Chad Hutson Special To Perspective
 

Some people look at the ever-growing commercial landscape of our community and cringe. The open spaces they once enjoyed are paved over with strip malls.

Others welcome commercial development throughout our cities and county. They see it as strengthening our economic base and providing goods and services for residents. They also see new jobs.

The same can be said of residential development.

Spokane County’s population has grown 13.2 percent in just 10 years, and the state now projects 120,000 more people will live here in 2015.

How Spokane County grows likely will change in coming months as elected officials and community leaders sit down to decide where growth will and won’t occur.

To do that, they’re going to need public input, lots of it.

The rapid increase in population has placed Spokane County and its 11 cities and towns under the state’s Growth Management Act, a law designed to help local governments plan for growth and prepare to meet future residents’ needs.

While not all agree that the Growth Management Act is the best tool to help regions like ours handle growth pressures, it is the law and it’s a law with very specific deadlines.

This process of planning for growth comes down to some basic functions: drawing lines on maps. That’s the phase our elected officials are in now. They must decide where to permit future growth, then devise a plan for accommodating it in those places.

The lines likely will surround existing urban areas. Inside these lines, or “urban growth area boundaries,” growth likely will occur during the next 20 years. Outside the lines growth will be limited and the land will remain rural in character.

This process affects everyone. Not just those who live in the unincorporated parts of Spokane County, such as the Valley, but those who live in cities and towns as well. You may live in the city but commute through the Valley to get to work. This process may affect that commute.

What kind of impact will this have on our communities? Nobody knows for sure, but one thing is certain. Development patterns will change.

Drawing urban growth area boundaries will require to make tough decisions about economic development, protection of natural lands, extension of services to outlying areas and where to locate houses and commercial centers.

Inside the boundaries, residents can expect urban services such as public transit, fire and police protection, street cleaning and water and sewer service and commercial residential development. Residents outside the boundaries can expect rural lands, roads without curbs or sidewalks, private water and sewer systems and limited, if any, commercial and residential growth.

As the community grows, the bvoundaries will be reviewed to determine if they are meeting our needs. The boundaries can be expanded as needed.

These boundaries also must be large enough to accommodate anticipated growth for the next 20 years, but not so big that sprawl occurs and it becomes more costly to extend sewers, water service and roads to newly developed areas.

Before lines are placed on maps, two things must happen. First, the public has to become involved and tell the elected officials what’s important to them. Second, the elected officials will fold that public input into the process of determining where growth will and won’t occur.

However, public input sessions have reached all-time highs here in Spokane. Residents may be getting weary of being asked for their opinions. Time is precious, and sitting through a two-hour meeting on growth excites few.

So why is this process for seeking public input any different? Because the impacts are so great to everyone in the county.

Are quicker commute times more important to you than expanding fire protection coverage? Are clustered commercial centers more desirable than open spaces or housing developments? Is job creation more important than environmental preservation?

These are some of the questions the public must answer. Sure, there will be opportunities to give input once urban growth area boundaries are drafted, but input before the lines are placed will reflect the community’s wishes from the start.

Now is your chance to have a say in what our communities look like 20 years from now. The steering committee composed of elected officials and community leaders throughout Spokane County is inviting you to participate in “Blueprints 2000: Citizens Managing Regional Growth.”

Using a tool called “Meeting in a Box,” residents can learn about growth in the area through a 10-minute video, read some brochures and fill out a questionnaire about growth issues.

The information then will be given to the elected officials in our cities, towns and in Spokane County for review.

It’s quite possible the public may ask for something the government can’t provide due to costs or limitations under the Growth Management Act. It’s also possible the public input will help city and town councils and county commissioners craft urban growth area boundaries that reflect citizens’ wishes.

MEMO: Chad Hutson is public information specialist for the Spokane County Public Works Department.

This sidebar appeared with the story: How to have your say in the process Residents who want to reserve a “Meeting in a Box” should call 456-2205. The process takes about 45 minutes and can occur in hour home, church, service or social club, or wherever it is convenient for you and your friends to gather. If you would like to submit your thoughts about this issue to The Spokesman-Review, send them to Doug Floyd, Interactive Editor, 999 W. Riverside, Spokane, WA 99201

Chad Hutson is public information specialist for the Spokane County Public Works Department.

This sidebar appeared with the story: How to have your say in the process Residents who want to reserve a “Meeting in a Box” should call 456-2205. The process takes about 45 minutes and can occur in hour home, church, service or social club, or wherever it is convenient for you and your friends to gather. If you would like to submit your thoughts about this issue to The Spokesman-Review, send them to Doug Floyd, Interactive Editor, 999 W. Riverside, Spokane, WA 99201


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