April 7, 2012 in Opinion

On remaining good neighbors

Joint Land Use Study’s list of ordinances too sweeping, hurts West Plains community
Anna Olson
 

Lately, there has been much talk about Fairchild Air Force Base’s importance, and how it is Spokane’s greatest priority to keep it open. Clearly, the message is there should be no stone left unturned to ensure Spokane has done everything to retain the base.

 Lobbyists from Spokane have made several visits to Washington, D.C., and have come back stating that our efforts will be in vain without implementation of the Fairchild Joint Land Use Study (JLUS). In their minds, anyone who has any opinion contrary to this objective is either unpatriotic or denying economic realities.

 I love Fairchild and I want it to remain open, but our citizenry needs to understand that there is a price to pay for our success. The people being asked to pay this price are the average citizens living on the West Plains.

 The JLUS recommends a list of proposed ordinances for an area encompassing approximately 80 square miles. According to proposed county documents analyzed at WestPlainsLives.com, all residents in this area will be required to give airspace easements and liability waivers to Fairchild. Any building or development will be required to remove any nuisance (bird habitat, glare, night lighting) deemed a distraction to pilots, as determined by the base. Some would say that this has always been the case, but what is different now is that our county will be the enforcer.

 But it gets worse for a smaller area that encompasses 35 square miles of property that will be in the Noise/Compatible Use Zone. With echoes of “1984” in our heads, this means residents and their activities are now deemed “incompatible.” The county is proposing that no future development of this area be allowed: no future subdivision of property, no accessory dwellings and no rezoning – ever. In addition, no public attractions noted for large crowds: no hospitals, day care centers, nursing homes, fire or police stations. In short, no community. Residents seeking VA, FHA and HUD home loans will find restrictions based on their placement in this area. In addition, any buildings allowed for construction will require special noise-attenuation features, resulting in higher material and inspection costs.

 With the seriousness of these restrictions, you would think the county would be conservative about establishing the borders of this zone. Rather than taking data from the latest Air Force Center for Engineering and Environment studies conducted at Fairchild in 2007, they instead hired a consultant to conduct a computer simulation based on a fleet of 32 767s and 12 B-52s in full wartime mode, 24 hours a day.

But how that translates to the real world is a loss of our community. The loss of the dreams for our neighborhood. It seems a small group of individuals is throwing everything at this base realignment process and hasn’t taken into consideration the little people on the ground. I would like everyone to imagine this happening to them, and ask themselves. Is this worth it?

Anna Olson and her family have lived on the West Plains for 40 years.


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