Local politicians will be sequestered Friday, drawing lines to designate where shopping malls and housing developments will sprout.
Spokane county and city, as well as the small towns within the county’s boundaries, each have drawn maps showing where they think urban growth should be encouraged and where it should be banned. Each pledges to provide appropriate services within its own “urban growth area.”
In a task that would make Solomon blanch, the county’s Growth Management Act Steering Committee will try to make those maps jibe, while simultaneously protecting the environment and affordable housing, and pleasing as many people as possible.
The committee, which includes elected officials from the city, the county and the towns, has set aside the entire day for the work, starting at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will be in the Champions Room at the Spokane Arena, 720 W. Mallon.
The following Friday, the committee will meet again, to finish up any work and take its final vote on the urban growth boundaries. County commissioners are scheduled to decide in December whether to adopt the recommendations or change the boundaries.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Phil Harris said he thinks the county is not giving landowners enough time to comment on the boundaries.
“Who wants to make the decision this year? What’s the big rush?” Harris asked.
Commissioners Steve Hasson and John Roskelley noted that the county is two months past its state-imposed deadline for the work.
Postponing the decision likely would mean a two- or three-month wait until Commissioner-elect Kate McCaslin has a chance to study the issue, said Roskelley. McCaslin replaces Hasson in January.
Added Hasson: “I have an intimate knowledge of land-use issues … and would like to be involved in the authorship of something of this magnitude.”
The boundaries might change even after commissioners make their decision. By January 1998, the county must adopt a new comprehensive plan and review the urban growth areas. Then, the boundaries are reviewed every five years.
People who don’t like the location of the urban growth areas can appeal to a state panel appointed to hear the cases.
“There will be lots and lots of appeals, no matter what we do,” said Hasson.
At four public workshops scattered across the county, officials heard from people who think their land should be designated urban, even though their neighbors are fighting for rural designations.
They heard from developers who want the urban area as broad as possible. They heard from conservationists who want greater protection for the Little Spokane River, the Dishman Hills Natural Area and other pristine areas.
When county planners put all the requests on a color-coded map, it looked like a plaid shirt.
The biggest conflicts are between the city and the county. Each is claiming some of the same tax-rich areas.
For several weeks, Commissioner John Roskelley has met with City Councilwomen Phyllis Holmes and Roberta Greene, trying to settle differences. While there are large chunks of land the three-member committee hasn’t discussed, they plan to recommend Friday that the city not claim any land north of its current boundaries.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to push farther north” because the city isn’t prepared to provide urban services there, said Holmes.