A state growth management official on Wednesday warned that a county proposal to expand the urban growth area would put taxpayers at risk for the cost of extending public services.
Dave Anderson, eastern regional manager for the state’s growth management office, told Spokane County commissioners that “we do not feel expansion is good business” for the governmental entities that would have to provide public services to an expanded boundary. He said a land capacity analysis shows no need to expand and the existing urban-designated area has room for more people than forecast.
“That’s how much excess capacity you have” in the existing urban growth boundary, Anderson said.
“You are planning for a large revenue base … on a population you think will come,” he said.
County commissioners are expecting the population to grow to 612,000 residents by 2031 from about 480,000 today, a figure that Anderson disputed as optimistic based on past population growth.
Anderson appeared during a packed public hearing on proposals for expansion. Nearly 100 people signed up to testify.
Commissioner Al French at the outset said that new public facilities will have to be built whether growth occurs in fringe urban areas or inside cities, and that the difference in cost is negligible.
Commissioner Todd Mielke pointed out that two areas proposed for expansion would solve sewer issues for schools in Mead and Central Valley school districts. Expansion north of Mead would allow the county to extend sewers when septic tanks fail in subdivisions outside the urban area.
Sewers are not allowed outside urban growth areas under state law.
Kitty Klitzke, Eastern Washington director for Futurewise, described as “unfortunate” decisions by school officials to purchase land outside the urban growth area as well as pre-Growth Management Act planning practices. But since Spokane County and its cities adopted growth management plans in 2001, “current policy has us going in the right direction,” she said. Klitzke asked commissioners to resist “backsliding” and say no to expanding the urban boundary.
Commissioners heard from a number of landowners who hold large pieces of property outside the urban growth area that could be opened for development under the proposals.
Sally Lloyd said she and her brother own 26 acres of land on Moran Prairie that have been in their family for 100 years. She said it is close to existing sewer lines, schools, shopping and improved roads. She said subdividing that land would be a “positive addition” to the community.
William O’Donnell, a homebuilder, said land for new homes has “dried up” in southeast Spokane.
Land-use lawyer F.J. Dullanty said many parcels in southeast Spokane are held by people who don’t want to sell and “there’s a total lack of land for development in that area.”