March 31, 2014

Condon to veto anti-sprawl ordinance

 

Spokane Mayor David Condon said he’ll veto an ordinance that would have stopped city water and sewer from being extended to contested development areas outside city limits until legal challenges were resolved.

It will be his first veto since taking office in 2012. Condon said he favors a more comprehensive approach to growth management.

The Spokane City Council, on a 4-2 vote, approved the ordinance on March 17.

It was a response to the Spokane County Commission’s approval last year of a 4,100-acre expansion of the boundaries where residential and commercial development is allowed in outlying areas.

That expansion was ruled improper by a state board because it lacked sufficient public hearings. Under current rules, developers can file plans for projects in those areas while appeals are underway. The city council ordinance would have effectively put a stop to those projects by denying sewer and water utilities to those areas until all appeals are settled.

Condon said he is working with Spokane County Commissioners to revise growth strategies to meet community goals for urban expansion.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about smart growth and how do you do that,” Condon said during a press conference this morning.

Condon also announced that he will sign a pair of ordinances that will allow sales of home-raised produce in residential areas and a second ordinance allowing small livestock in residential zones. Those measures will be reviewed after one year, he said.

On growth management, Coiuncilman Jon Snyder said that the cost of extending urban services to new growth areas is estimated at $64 million, not counting transportation upgrades.

Snyder said that the county’s expansion of the urban growth area in 2013 led to an “unfortunate outcome of prioritizing these new development projects over infrastructure needs for current water and sewer customers.”

One of the areas under contention is a 109-lot subdivision known as Twisted Willows, which has only one access point at Custer Street and 42nd Avenue in southeast Spokane. It would send hundreds, if not thousands, of daily vehicle trips onto a substandard Havana Street, an old two-lane roadway.

He said fixing Havana to handle higher traffic will cost more than $1 million.

The expansion of the urban area has drawn fire from Gov. Jay Inslee, who has his departments of commerce and transportation challenging the expansion.

Mayoral vetoes can be overridden with five council votes, but it would require Snyder find a cross over vote from one of the council’s three conservative members.

That’s unlikely but Council President Ben Stuckart said he’s reviewing concerns listed by opponents of the measure, which includes a perception that there was too little public participation, and would consider trying again if there was a chance he could pull over another vote.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm said unrestrained growth has resulted in higher city utility bills to pay for extensions of water and sewer services.

“When unplanned growth happens, it hurts neighborhoods,” she said.

Snyder said, “Nobody is anti-growth or anti-development, but where’s the balance.”

Condon said he is working with Spokane County Commissioners on a growth strategy that will address transportation, sharing of tax revenue and utility services among other issues.

The Spokane Home Builders Association hailed Condon’s announcement this morning. “The ordinance was legally questionable to begin with, was rushed through to a vote of the Council with no public participation, and no studies were conducted on how its implementation would impact housing affordability or business recruitment in our region,” the association said in a news release.

Condon said that the ordinance also was questionable from a legal standpoint since the city might be obligated to provide water and sewer service to areas that are being opened for development.

This story is developing and will be updated.


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