August 27, 2010 in City

County plans extension of sewer line to boost development

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane County is poised to extend a sewer line to a 415-acre property where commissioners hope development will boost their tax base.

“This is one of the last areas where Spokane County has any ability to do this,” Commissioner Todd Mielke said.

The land, which fronts on U.S. Highway 2 south of Farwell Road, is owned by Kaiser Aluminum. It is bounded on the east by the new North Spokane freeway.

County commissioners revised a previously unused sewer “trunk charge” ordinance this week and established rates for hooking up to the planned three-fourth-mile extension.

A line on the west side of Highway 2 is to go under the roadway and extend southward along the east side of the highway.

A Kaiser spokesman declined to comment, but county officials said the company is trying to land a “big box” store that would attract other retailers.

“To my knowledge, there is nobody that has committed to the site,” Utilities Director Bruce Rawls said.

Until that happens, Rawls is reluctant to go ahead with the estimated $998,000 sewer project, which would be financed with sewer utility reserves that would be repaid by connection charges.

Nevertheless, Rawls said he might go ahead with the project in January if commissioners concur.

Now is a “phenomenal time” for construction bargains, he said. “We might save enough money that it’s worth taking the risk.”

In any event, Rawls said he intends to have the project ready to go on short notice.

“We’re poised and ready so, if there is any possibility for economic development there, the sewer line will not be the thing that holds it up,” Rawls said.

He said commissioners “have given us very strong signals that they want us to do this, but they haven’t said, ‘By a certain date, we want to have sewers in there.’ ”

Mielke said commissioners directed county departments to work with other utility purveyors and develop a coordinated plan for bringing services to the site.

In October, commissioners established a tax increment financing district for Kaiser land. Some of the taxes generated by new constructions will be diverted for publicly owned infrastructure.

Rawls said he has been advised the district will generate only “a relatively modest amount of money.” He said there won’t be enough for the sewer extension after paying for a traffic light or roundabout to provide highway access.

If the development includes housing in the 331-acre portion zoned for mixed use, it must be limited to a “continuing-care retirement community” under a covenant to protect the Mead School District against crowding.

The restriction could be lifted if Kaiser agrees to compensate the district for the burden new housing would place on schools.


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