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County files casino plan objection

Wed., Jan. 30, 2013

Commissioners’ statement cites impact to Fairchild

Spokane County Commissioners registered their formal objection Tuesday to a plan by the Spokane Tribe to build a casino on land in Airway Heights.

The action comes after the commissioners and the Airway Heights City Council voted last week to rescind an agreement in which the commissioners were not allowed to oppose the project. They gave up that right in exchange for part of a payment by the tribe to Airway Heights.

With the neutrality agreement gone, the commissioners moved quickly this week to lodge their opposition to the project with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. That agency of the Interior Department has the power to approve the casino for the economic benefit of the tribe.

The casino also needs approval by the Washington governor under federal law.

The commissioners argued in their resolution that the Spokane Tribe has other income-producing enterprises, including gaming facilities as well as timber and mine holdings.

The commissioners also said the development could affect air and water quality, increase traffic and place extra burden on the delivery of government services.

In addition, the casino near Fairchild Air Force Base would encroach on military operations and create a risk to public safety in the area where aircraft fly overhead, the resolution said.

Tribal leaders have said a casino on 145 acres of trust land will be compatible with the base, and that they have been told by Air Force officials that the casino would have no negative effects on the base.

Commissioners Al French and Todd Mielke said in a news release that they believe they have a duty to voice concerns for residents and protect the 5,000 jobs and economic activity provided through Fairchild.

They said they are concerned about encroachment causing the Department of Defense to close Fairchild or reduce its mission in the future.

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