Spokane Valley is considering a measure that speeds up the permitting process for potential businesses in the city’s northeast industrial area.
City staff is proposing what’s called a “planned action ordinance” that eliminates environmental studies for businesses looking to relocate within the northeast industrial area, which stretches east from Flora Road to city limits and is bounded by Trent and Euclid avenues to the north and south, respectively.
The northeast industrial area consists of 277 acres of developed land and 563 acres of industrial zoned, undeveloped land.
The proposed ordinance identifies potential traffic and environmental impacts for developers before they file permits, so it increases predictability and reduces the permitting process by at least six months for businesses.
Business participation in the planned action ordinance is voluntary and would cost more than $2,800 per evening vehicle trip indicated in the traffic study. If businesses opt out of the planned action ordinance, they would be responsible for conducting their own traffic studies and other financial obligations to meet development standards.
Spokane Valley economic development specialist Chaz Bates said predictability and forgoing the environmental review are incentives for potential businesses.
“Because in Washington, we don’t have a lot of ability to provide incentives, so we look for strategic ways to provide those things,” he said at a recent council meeting.
The city was awarded a grant in 2016 by the Washington state Department of Commerce for $114,200 to complete the planned action ordinance for the northeast industrial area, which is identified as a priority in the city’s comprehensive plan.
If the City Council chooses to adopt the ordinance and all businesses in the northeast industrial area participate, it could generate more than $3.65 million over 20 years for the city, which would be used to offset expenses for infrastructure improvements.
California-based technology company Katerra purchased 52 acres in the northeast industrial area for $5.3 million from Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of the Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.
Katerra is building a 250,000-square-foot, cross-laminated-timber facility that includes a warehouse, research and development institute, and storage space. It expects to create 225 jobs.
Spokane County assessor’s records show Progress Rail, a subsidiary of Alabama-based Caterpillar Inc., purchased land adjacent to Katerra from Centennial Properties for $3.2 million.
The company is planning to build a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with 115,000 square feet of storage and a new short line rail spur off Union Pacific Railroad’s main line, according to city documents.
In addition, The Spokesman-Review’s print publishing operations will move to the industrial park in late 2019 or early 2020, into a building owned by Centennial Real Estate Investment on the 19200 block of East Euclid Avenue.
The newspaper is negotiating to buy a printing press that can print smaller batches and tabloid-style publications to expand revenue from outside printing contracts. More than 72 full- and part-time employees will be relocated with the move.
To qualify for the planned action ordinance, a project must be located in the industrial area, meet density standards, be considered a light industrial or industrial business and provide estimates of building size and number of employees for a traffic study, which is limited to 1,340 daily trips.
The city indicated the planned action ordinance is a regional priority that supports economic development opportunities and will bring high-paying manufacturing jobs to the city.
“We think that this is a pretty huge economic benefit to encourage or enhance ability for industrial development to get off the ground and be built easily and efficiently as well as adhering to the community visions and the environmental standards we want,” Bates said.
The City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance at its Feb. 26 meeting.
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