Spokane leaders agreed Tuesday to push forward with what would be the largest expansion of city boundaries since 1907.
The Spokane and Airway Heights city councils Tuesday approved an agreement that divides much of the West Plains between the two cities. Under the proposal, Spokane will start to pursue the annexation of 10 square miles, including the Spokane International Airport, starting in March. If that’s successful, Spokane will cede a square half mile, including the Wal-Mart on Hayford Road, to Airway Heights.
The agreement puts an end to long-time bickering between the two cities about where the cities’ borders should be drawn. It’s unclear, however, if Spokane County officials will oppose the annexation like they did recently when they fought Spokane’s attempt to annex property including the Costco on North Division. That land became part of the city last year.
Final annexation decisions will be made by the Spokane County Boundary Review Board. Previous attempts by both cities at annexing portions of the land failed. Spokane City Councilman Steve Corker said the agreement approved Tuesday should help their chances.
“Our ability to work out a joint request will be very beneficial for both of us,” he said. “The agreement allows us to deal with mutual concerns and expedite the process.”
Despite the significant shift in city boundaries and the millions of tax dollars at stake, there was little debate on the topic at Tuesday’s meeting and only one person testified on the concept. The council approved the agreement 6-0. Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin was absent.
Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke said in an interview that the county could lose between $1.5 million and $3 million a year to the two cities in tax income if the area is annexed. That decline in county revenue would hurt criminal justice services that are depended on countywide including in the city, he said.
“We provide regional services,” Mielke said. “Every time we turn around, we’re being cut off at the knees.”
City officials have long argued that locations that receive city services should eventually be annexed to Spokane. Much of the West Plains receives sewer and water service from Spokane.
Airway Heights Mayor Matthew Pederson said the next step will involve the two cities working with the county on an annexation plan that could allow the county to share, at least temporarily, tax revenues that otherwise would shift to the cities. A similar agreement between the county and Spokane led county leaders to end opposition to the Costco annexation.