Spokane County commissioners want to expand areas where urban development is allowed in the county.
But Futurewise, a statewide public interest group, argues such an expansion of the urban growth boundary would feed speculative land development and end up costing the public millions of dollars to extend services like parks, sewers, roads and transit routes.
“Expansion of the urban growth area where it is not needed is subsidizing urban sprawl,” said Kitty Klitzke, Eastern Washington director for Futurewise.
Klitzke said there is enough vacant land in the existing urban growth area to accommodate the projected population increase of about 150,000 residents by 2031, and said Futurewise will fight an expansion.
The county has been working for the past few years on an update of its urban growth area, initially established in 2001 under the state’s growth management law.
Commissioners said cities have not absorbed as many new residents as previously anticipated, requiring the need for expansion.
About a dozen areas proposed for urban expansion are being sought by individual property owners or developers.
Under the alternatives, the cost of new schools is pegged at nearly $800 million in future years. Construction of libraries and parks adds another $74 million to the public’s bill, according to an environmental impact statement released last fall.
At least 130 new police officers at $15.6 million annually would be needed.
In addition, new sewers, water lines, road improvements and even transit extensions would have to be built.
Travel times on some routes would increase by a minute or more.
Commissioners said some of the areas proposed for inclusion already have urban-style subdivisions, including land along U.S. Highway 2 north of Mead. Commercial areas there would benefit from the ability to extend sewers, which are limited by state law to the urban growth area, said Commissioner Todd Mielke.
Other areas proposed for inclusion are the south Glenrose area, the Monte Del Rey hillside north of Spokane Valley, the Belle Terre area, southeast Moran Prairie, an area near Havana Street north of Francis Avenue and Pillar Rock east of Airway Heights.
The public will get a chance to weigh in on various options at a public hearing before the commissioners on Feb. 27. The hearing will be at 5:30 p.m. in the lower level of the Public Works Building, 1036 W. Broadway Ave.