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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Does Spokane have a sprawl problem? Spokane candidates speak

This year, we asked all Spokane city candidates a question about sprawl in Spokane.

Specifically, we asked:

Does Spokane have a sprawl problem? Should the city develop stronger policies encouraging infill? Is the current model working? Or should the city get out of the way and let development occur?

Ben Stuckart, incumbent candidate for Spokane City Council president: We should encourage infill.  We can grow our tax base by either encouraging infill or bringing more high paying jobs to Spokane.  The City Council recently approved the Water Plan.  This puts the City in the driver’s seat in this conversation.  No permits for building can be issued without the City enlarging its’ water service area.  Growth can be smart. 

John Ahern, candidate for council president: Did not provide an answer.

Mike Fagan, incumbent candidate for Spokane City Council District 1: No, Spokane does not have a sprawl problem, this has been affirmed by the likes of Smart Growth America. Please refer to my answer in #3 above.  How much more in incentives should the tax payer step up for in order to support infill when inconsistencies and policies exist between state GMA, city code and comprehensive plan, that only cost the investor, developer, and buyers more in the end? I believe that there is a balance that is required in everything that the city does. 

Randy Ramos, candidate for district 1:Sprawl usually contributes to longer commutes, which can have negative impact environmentally. Like I’ve said before, there is a lot of undeveloped land within the city, particularly in District 1. I would like to see the city encourage development in those areas first, before we expand outward. 

LaVerne Biel, candidate for district 2: I do not believe that Spokane has a sprawl problem.  We cannot control were people want to purchase homes.  However, there are properties within the City of Spokane that can and should be developed.  We need a comprehensive study of where the lots are available and which are actually buildable at a market rate. Improvements can be made with the current model.  It’s been stated that “infill” sounds good until someone wants to build within a neighborhood. I briefly attended a forum on Smart Growth which integrates human and housing needs within walking distance for a healthier lifestyle.  I need to know more about this approach and how Spokane would benefit from this model.

Lori Kinnear, candidate for district 2: Spokane County is plagued by sprawl and therefore Spokane city bears the cost and inconvenience of sprawl. I am a strong supporter of creating incentives for developers to build downtown and in our business Centers and Corridors. I participated in creating incentives that would provide utility upgrade for development and to allow buildings that were originally commercial to retain that designation if developed into apartments to keep sewer costs low. The city should partner with local building and development associations to do a buildable land inventory so that parcels can be easily identified by potential buyers or developers. Recently Centers and Corridors Design Guidelines were updated to create infill that would be compatible with our residential neighborhoods.

Karen Stratton, incumbent candidate for district 3: “Getting out of the way and letting development occur” is not an option under the Growth Management Act and is certainly no way to ensure orderly growth of municipal infrastructure.  No system is perfect, and ours doesn’t always strike the right balance between encouraging in-fill and maintaining the character and quality of neighborhoods that have room for growth, but overall it has worked to prevent sprawl within the City limits. 

Evan Verduin, candidate for district 3: A key difference between my opponent and I is our stance regarding the role of government. I do not believe our council should be focused on creating “stronger policies”. Yes, we want to encourage infill so that as a city we don’t lose families and business to neighboring communities. Infill by nature, does not place any extra burdens on our existing infrastructure, fire or police departments, instead it increases the tax base and revenue so that crucial services such as fire and police can continue to be improved and strengthened, not expanded. However, to encourage infill as a city we should look at the numerous burdens and regulations that make construction within city limits cost prohibitive. Burdens within the city need to be identified and reduced so that doing business in Spokane or living here isn’t dictated by stronger restrictions and policies imposed by a heavy handed government but by less of them.

Be sure to read our complete coverage of this year's races while you fill out your ballot.

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

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