March 12, 2013 in City

Growth boundary greatly expanded

County commissioners open thousands of acres to development
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Spokane County commissioners have opened thousands of new acres for housing and business development.

The unanimous vote by the three Republican commissioners expanded the county’s urban growth boundary. The plan includes 6,000 acres for residential development and another 1,000 acres for commercial and industrial use.

Commissioners said they are preparing for the future by expanding opportunities for new industry, homes, sewer lines and schools.

The plan is based on estimates that Spokane will grow from 472,000 residents today to 612,000 residents by 2031.

Spokane Mayor David Condon and three Spokane City Council members opposed the expansion.

Councilman Jon Snyder said recently that Spokane has enough room inside the existing urban growth area to accommodate 100 years of growth.

The cost of building new schools and parks, and providing services, is estimated to cost in excess of $1 billion. And that does not include road improvements.

Commissioner Todd Mielke took issue with Condon and council members for opposing the expansion.

“It’s easy to say no, but that’s not necessarily good planning,” he said.

One of the largest areas being opened for urban expansion lies between Spokane International Airport and Fairchild Air Force Base, where commissioners and business leaders are hoping to attract new industry.

Commissioner Al French said growth will bring more tax revenue to the county and cities within the urban boundary.

“If we can all grow, we can share in that revenue pie,” he said.

Kitty Klitzke, Eastern Washington director for Futurewise, a public interest group focused on growth-management issues, said her organization is going to review the commissioners’ decision with an eye toward appealing the expansion.

“I am really shocked at how much they included,” she said. “It is way beyond what we believe is acceptable.”

The county has not done a good job of accounting for the costs of providing new public services to the urban fringe areas, she said, adding that the commissioners’ population forecasts are too optimistic.

Areas approved for urban expansion include land held by speculators who have asked the county to open their land to build subdivisions.

Land owned by the Mead and Central Valley school districts was approved for urban designations, allowing sewer lines to be connected to new schools planned in coming years.

Mielke defended extension of the urban growth area from the north side of the old Mead townsite northward to Green Bluff Road. Homes on existing subdivisions were built with septic tanks and drain fields, some of which are sending tainted wastewater into the Little Spokane River and Spokane aquifer.

He said extending the growth area would allow those homes to be hooked to sewers. The move also opens the U.S. Highway 2 business strip to more intense commercial development.

A series of urban additions were approved in the area of Highland Estates north of Trent Avenue; south and southeast of Spokane Valley; Glenrose Prairie, Moran Prairie and Government Way near Fort George Wright Drive.


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