April 6, 2014 in City

Spokane City Council won’t contest sprawl measure veto

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Spokane City Council’s anti-sprawl measure appears dead. For now, anyway.

Council President Ben Stuckart, rather than trying to muster support for an unlikely override of Mayor David Condon’s veto, is starting over.

Stuckart said Friday he’s sending the measure to the city’s Plan Commission for review and a potential return to the City Council for reconsideration later, even though he disagrees with assertions by Condon and others that evaluation under the state’s Environmental Policy Act is required.

“One of the biggest criticisms was that it didn’t follow the process,” Stuckart noted. “So, I’m sending it to the Plan Commission and we’ll see what happens.”

Under the plan, which was pushed by Councilman Jon Snyder and approved March 17 on a 4-2 vote, city water and sewer service extensions into potentially contested new urban growth areas outside city limits would be prohibited until any legal challenges are resolved. It’s intended to block what many see as a loophole in state law that allows developers to obtain permits that must be honored even when legal challenges prevail in establishing that the zoning change was improper.

Several developments on Spokane’s outskirts have taken advantage of the loophole, which Snyder and others say forces the city to extend costly services to new urban growth areas approved by county commissioners rather than tend to the infrastructure needs of existing residents.

Condon vetoed it Monday, saying he remains concerned about the county’s aggressive urban growth area expansions but that the City Council plan was inadequately vetted and puts the region’s economic health at risk.

The mayor has pledged to work with county commissioners to develop a more coordinated approach to growth.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm, the council’s liaison to the Plan Commission, said she’d briefed the panel on Snyder’s proposal ahead of the final vote and invited members to share any comments or concerns.

She said she felt formal Plan Commission review was unnecessary because the panel is responsible for evaluating the city’s land use policies, not utility matters such as water and sewer service. But she said she’ll now request a full evaluation under the state’s Environmental Policy Act, often referred to as a SEPA review.

The Plan Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday, but it’s unclear whether the anti-sprawl measure will be on the agenda.


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