Spokane County’s biggest land-use ruling in 10 years will be made two days after Christmas so Commissioner Steve Hasson can help make the decision.
Hasson and Commissioner John Roskelley voted Tuesday to decide Friday, Dec. 27, where to put “interim urban growth areas.”
Anticipating a big crowd, they’ve set aside that afternoon and evening for the hearing.
Setting growth boundaries this year rather than next means Hasson, rather than Commissioner-elect Kate McCaslin will vote.
That’s a victory for supporters of the state Growth Management Act, who see Hasson as more likely than McCaslin to adopt tight limits. Developers wanted the decision delayed.
Commissioner Phil Harris objected to holding the meeting during the holidays, saying he doesn’t think the hearing will be well-attended. He argued the county should postpone a decision for several months, if necessary, to give county residents more time to comment on the plan that’s been two years in the making.
“I don’t think we’re ready,” Harris said. “It already is beginning to look to the citizens like this thing is being slam-dunked.”
Public works director Dennis Scott said three county planners have canceled vacations to be available for the meeting.
Hasson, who leaves office Jan. 1, said he intends to closely follow the recommendations of the Growth Management Act regional steering committee. The growth areas drawn by that committee of local elected officials are much smaller than developers and large landowners would prefer.
McCaslin, Hasson’s replacement, said during the election that she would implement the Growth Management Act “in a way that is not extreme.” Many of her biggest campaign contributors were builders, developers and Realtors.
Commissioners originally planned to hold a hearing on the boundaries in September, so the county would meet a state-imposed deadline for establishing the boundaries. The delay was granted largely to provide more time for public comment.
Earlier this month, commissioners agreed to extend the comment period again, from Nov. 18 to Nov. 25. County planners told them the new schedule still allowed time to make a decision before Christmas.
But county attorneys told commissioners last week that the extension didn’t allow enough time to finish an environmental impact statement and still advertise the hearing 10 days in advance, as required by law.
Hasson said he doubts significantly more people would comment if commissioners delayed a decision again.
Despite extensive publicity about the growth boundaries, commissioners received far fewer comments than they expected. Developers, however, have lobbied hard to have their land designated urban.
“Every power broker in this community has this at the top of their mind,” Hasson said. “We’re being pushed incredibly hard on this.”
The interim urban growth areas represent the biggest change in land-use regulations since 1986. That year, the county adopted its comprehensive plan, which established regulations for developing land.
But while the comprehensive plan was not enforced for five years, the growth boundaries will take effect overnight.
For the next year, at least, new subdivisions in areas designated urban will be allowed only where public sewers are available. In rural areas, no new lots smaller than 10 acres will be created.
Those regulations do not apply to land that has already been subdivided.
The interim growth areas, along with the restrictions, may change after the county adopts a new comprehensive plan. That work is supposed to take a year.
After then, the growth boundaries can be reviewed every five years.