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Land-use rules near FAFB proposed

Spokane County commissioners are pushing to get new land-use regulations in place around Fairchild Air Force Base by spring to show the Pentagon they are sincere about protecting Fairchild from civilian encroachment.

The commissioners said on Wednesday they will urge officials in Airway Heights, Medical Lake and Spokane to move quickly on parallel regulations as well.

Commissioners set themselves an April 13 deadline to adopt the plan and will ask other agencies to seek to meet the same deadline.

Getting the new rules adopted is seen as critical in persuading the Air Force to make Fairchild the home for the first of the “new generation” KC-46A tankers now being built by Boeing Co. in Everett.

Last month, business leaders and Washington’s two U.S. senators kicked off a Fairchild First campaign to get the first tankers, along with the $200 million investment it would take to get Fairchild ready for the new aircraft.

Encroachment is seen by the military as a serious long-term threat to numerous bases.

Work on land-use regulations dates back more than five years to a Joint Land Use Study funded by the Department of Defense.

The study recommended 57 strategies to ensure that development is compatible with current and future base operations, according to county planners.

The proposal commissioners are now pursuing seeks to keep major developments away from Fairchild and protect aircraft from threats such as birds, glare, tall buildings and competing light sources. Takeoff and landing zones would get additional protections.

Property owners, in turn, would be advised of flight patterns, potential restrictions and aircraft noise at the time of purchase. New homes in the vicinity of the base would have to have sound insulation.

Spokane County won a grant from the military to implement the recommendations.

Three public open houses on the proposed rules are scheduled for later this month at locations on the West Plains.

At the same time, the Air Force is expected to announce criteria as early as the end of March for selecting the base that will get the first new tankers.

“The adoption of JLUS is critical for us scoring well” on the selection for that first base, Commissioner Mark Richard said.

Adoption of the rules can only occur following a series of meetings, notifications, comment periods and at least one public hearing before the commissioners and county Planning Commission.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Planning Director John Pederson.

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