Spokane Mayor David Condon and three City Council members oppose expansion of the county’s urban growth area, saying it would add an unnecessary financial burden to taxpayers.
In a letter dated Wednesday, Condon was joined by Council President Ben Stuckart and council members Amber Waldref and Jon Snyder in calling for holding the line on the existing urban growth boundary.
The letter was sent to Spokane County commissioners, who are considering a significant expansion of land available for urban development. They said they plan to decide on the proposed expansion March 11.
“Local governments are learning that it is not sustainable to have our population and development patterns too spread out,” the letter reads.
“Existing and new taxpayers are burdened by the costs of extending and maintaining extra miles of roads, utility lines, pipes, pump stations and general urban services” needed for lower-density development on the urban fringe, the letter said.
The mayor and council members challenged population projections adopted by commissioners as too high. The county expects population to grow to 612,000 residents from 472,600 today.
Snyder said in an interview he believes there is enough room inside the existing urban growth area for 100 years of growth.
The city of Spokane, at 70 square miles, has large areas suitable for industrial, commercial and residential development or redevelopment, he said.
He and other council members said the city has been working on code changes to make so-called in-fill development easier.
Expanding the urban growth area will only make it harder for the city to attract the new development investment it needs to remain vibrant, the council members said.
“Our roads are getting pounded. Our services are getting pounded,” Stuckart said.
Waldref said there’s a strong trend toward urban living, especially in an aging population, and Spokane needs to capitalize on that.
She said county commissioners are trying to boost their tax base in response to budget pressure.
“It’s a game that nobody wins,” she said.
Commissioners this week said it will cost more money to provide services to new residents whether the growth occurs inside or outside the current urban boundary.
Commissioner Todd Mielke said the city has an interest in driving as much growth inside its boundaries as possible and is ignoring the needs of other entities outside the city.
Options before the commissioners would open 6,000 acres for residential development of six homes per acre and 1,000 acres for commercial development.
Commissioners have said that in some cases they are seeking to get sewer service to areas that are already developed and to two school sites: Mountainside Middle School north of Mead and a proposed site in Central Valley School District.
Mielke said septic tanks north of Mount Spokane Park Drive are apparently causing pollution to seep into the Little Spokane River.