Spokane County commissioners are moving ahead with a plan to pre-certify property it owns from the Geiger Spur rail realignment to make the land more attractive to new business development.
They said the effort is part of a trend in economic development to offer prospective companies large tracts that would have land-use issues resolved so that construction could move ahead quickly.
The county acquired the land as part of a $6.2 million project to reroute the spur track away from Fairchild Air Force Base. The rerouting off base property was needed for security reasons and to continue rail service to businesses on the West Plains. The new track was finished in 2008.
Commissioners said Wednesday the county won’t sell 105 acres north of McFarlane Road near the air base that was acquired for the spur. That land will be held by the county to provide protection from development encroachment.
A more southerly parcel with about 100 acres has been up for sale, but now the commissioners want to make the land more attractive by getting it ready for new industry. They are seeking an agreement with other local governments to provide water and sewer to the site.
They said Wednesday they will hire a land-use consultant to review other land development issues, including the possible need for an environmental impact statement.
“We are acting as a developer in this case,” said Marshall Farnell, the county’s chief executive officer.
The land is being marketed through NAI Black in Spokane.
Commissioner Al French said large companies typically want to move fast when they are seeking to expand operations, and the West Plains area has attracted increasing interest by companies in recent years.
“If you don’t have a certified site, they pass you up,” French said.
Commissioner Mark Richard said companies want to have uncertainty in land development removed, which saves money and time.
Caterpillar Logistics Services chose a site south of Interstate 90 near the Medical Lake interchange and went to construction of a sprawling plant quickly after the site was named.
Spokane International Airport and the city of Spokane are taking a similar approach to potential development near the airport.
Two sites are being lined up as pre-certified for the possibility that Boeing Co. might expand operations in Washington for production of the high-demand and fuel-efficient 737 MAX. Spokane officials want to compete for that.
The county commissioners also said they want to sell the 100 acres from the Geiger Spur acquisitions to help repay a loan they took from the county treasurer to buy the property.
The commissioners last year changed the zoning code to allow building heights of up to 150 feet outside of airport flight paths, part of the effort to attract large, new employers.