Spokane County commissioners on Tuesday completed a two-year overhaul of controversial “rural cluster development” standards.
The action rounds out a package of reforms designed to make the relatively dense subdivisions less intrusive in rural areas.
Changes in the county’s rural cluster development program began Dec. 31 with a comprehensive plan change that prohibits new cluster developments in Small-tract Agricultural zones – including Peone Prairie, Green Bluff and areas near Deer Park.
Cluster developments now are allowed only in the Rural Conservation, Rural Traditional and Rural-5 zones.
Additional measures approved Tuesday include a requirement for houses to be less densely concentrated on county roads.
Minimum lot sizes would be increased from one to two acres, and minimum road frontages for each lot would increase from 125 feet to 300. Houses also would have to be at least 100 feet from property lines instead of 25 feet.
Developers would still be allowed to build more houses than ordinarily would be allowed in exchange for setting aside at least 70 percent of their land as open space.
Still, Commissioner Bonnie Mager wanted to do more to make sure developers can’t take advantage of the program “and then a few years down the road take more advantage.” She proposed inserting a statement that commissioners intend open-spaces designations to be perpetual.
Commissioners Todd Mielke and Mark Richard said they couldn’t support that without legal review, and the changes were adopted as proposed.
Commissioners also voted 2-1 to approve an agreement that would prohibit school-age children from living in a 415-acre mixed-use subdivision on undeveloped Kaiser Aluminum land north of the company’s abandoned Mead smelter.
If the development were open to children, Mead school officials say it could force the district to build a new school. Kaiser would be obligated to compensate the district under terms of an environmental review by county planners.
Mager opposed the deal on grounds that the no-kids covenant isn’t strong enough to protect the Mead School District.
Kaiser and school officials negotiated the clause when they were unable to agree on where Kaiser should provide land for a school.
Commissioners view Kaiser’s commitment to build only a “continuing care retirement community” as a stopgap measure. They expressed hope Tuesday that company and school officials will come to terms on a school site.