County could work better with cities, mayor says
The state Legislature should do something about the lack of cooperation between counties and cities when it comes to growth that will affect city roads and services, Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite told members of a state House committee Tuesday.
As an example, she said there are areas of the Ponderosa neighborhood in Spokane County slated for development that aren’t even inside the urban growth boundary. Yet they border Spokane Valley and will directly affect traffic on Spokane Valley roads.
“We just want to make sure they’re not sitting at the intersection for five minutes,” she said of potential new residents. “If we can do some pre-planning, it works to everybody’s advantage.”
Raising the money for city road improvements and other growth-related infrastructure takes time and foresight, and the mayor and other members of the council have said the county hasn’t been helping them plan.
Three members of the House Local Government Committee heard the mayor’s concerns during a meeting in the Spokane Valley council chambers Tuesday afternoon. They said they convened in Spokane Valley to ask officials there and from Liberty Lake about the effects of the state’s Growth Management Act on newly formed cities.
Since GMA was passed in 1990, 15 cities incorporated. All but Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake were in King and Pierce counties on the West Side of the state.
The committee will discuss possible amendments to the act during the next legislative session.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve things,” said committee chairman Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington.
Joint planning is an issue statewide, Dave Williams, of the Association of Washington Cities, told the committee.
Under the law, counties are charged with drawing urban growth boundaries, separating areas where city-style development is encouraged from those where regulations are supposed to preserve rural attributes. Spokane County is now considering changes to its boundary.
Problems arise, Williams said, when unincorporated areas next to cities are annexed, but without infrastructure in place to bring services up to city standards.
Spokane County commissioners said they already cooperate with other jurisdictions when it comes to planning issues.
“I’m disappointed that she wants to force us to the table,” Commissioner Mark Richard said of Wilhite.
All three commissioners said that the complaints Spokane Valley has with county planning are unfounded. City concerns, they said, are addressed during the development process even if they are not taken up when commissioners decide on comprehensive plan amendments.
At the meeting, Deputy Mayor Rich Munson said Spokane County deserves credit for creating a committee he heads that will look into joint planning in August.
A change in state law, though, would “provide a level of motivation that doesn’t exist right now so we can move forward and get some of these problems solved,” he said.