April 29, 2011 in City

Planning panel votes to increase building-height limits in industrial zone

By The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane County Planning Commission did all it could Thursday to help the county land a yet-unnamed big distribution center on the West Plains.

They and county commissioners are rushing to increase building height limits before a May 23 cutoff date to satisfy requirements for the potential new center.

County Commissioner Mark Richard said earlier this week that he had been told the automated warehouse would provide 100 to 200 blue- and white-collar jobs.

Chairman Al French said a site-selection firm advised that 85 percent of the positions would be filled locally.

French and county Chief Executive Officer Marshall Farnell will lead a delegation of county department heads in a meeting next week with the potential employer.

Two other companies are looking at sites for a smaller distribution center and an “energy-conversion” plant that would generate electricity, according to county officials.

The Planning Commission’s 4-0 vote in favor of raising the height limit in light industrial zones from 40 to 60 feet was contingent upon the anticipated receipt of a letter from Fairchild Air Force Base.

The distribution center’s storage and retrieval equipment requires a building about 48 feet tall.

State law required county officials to consult Fairchild Air Force Base officials, among others, to make sure the zoning code change wouldn’t interfere with aviation.

Planning Director John Pederson hoped to receive a response later in the day from the base commander, who was out of town. But Pederson said another base official signaled there should be no problem.

Spokane International Airport officials have said they don’t object to the height increase if it is subject to federal restrictions in flight paths.

County officials also were required to consult pilot organizations. Representatives of the Washington Pilots Association echoed the Spokane International Airport response.

Association President Tom Morris expressed relief that county commissioners abandoned a plan to adopt the city of Spokane’s 150-foot height limit for light industrial zones.

The Planning Commission made adherence to the federal regulations a condition of its recommendation to county commissioners.

They also passed along a Spokane recommendation to limit the height increase to industrial uses and to limit the number of occupants in buildings taller than 40 feet.

County commissioners hope to consider the change Tuesday.

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