Sue Delucchi, incorporation proponent A hailstorm of criticism didn’t dent the Spokane City Council’s plans to ask a state panel to change the boundaries of a proposed Spokane Valley city.
Valley residents and backers of a new city there called the council everything from land grabbers to thieves, invoked Biblical phraseology and labeled the move all-out war.
Their anger didn’t stop the council Monday from asking the Spokane County Boundary Review Board to remove a property taxrich area just east of the city from the new city’s proposed boundaries.
Council members called the move both fiscally responsible and a vote for selfdetermination, saying taxpayers in the area have a right to choose their future.
“They have a right to make their own choice,” said Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes.
Councilman Chris Anderson cast the lone dissenting vote, claiming the move was “extreme” and “unneighborly.”
Boundaries for the proposed Valley city butt against Spokane’s eastern limit at Havana Street. The council wants the boundary moved two miles to the east to Park Road.
The largely industrial area between Havana and Park, known as Yardley, includes the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds, several gravel pits and railroad yards.
It’s fertile tax ground for any government. With its industrial character, it pays big property taxes but requires little in the way of expensive services.
Asking the state board to redraw the boundaries could delay the incorporation vote proposed for the May 16 ballot. Backers of the Valley city have set such a tight schedule that any delay in the review process would likely push the vote to September.
Critics of the council’s request see it as a move to annex the area that partially is served by city water and sewer service.
Repeated assurances from the council that it had no such design did nothing to allay their fears.
“We see this as a preliminary action to a land grab,” said incorporation proponent Sue Delucchi, who also called the move an “act of aggression by our neighbors to the west.”
In fact, many who testified during the twohour hearing talked about the potential cost to their tax base if the city annexed Yardley.
Because the area is now unincorporated, property owners pay about $775,000 a year to the Spokane Valley Fire District, money the district needs to survive, said Fire Chief Karl Bold.
Any moves by the council to take that area would “open wounds that will never heal in our lifetime,” Bold said.
Irv Reed, city director of planning services, defended the council’s intentions, saying the city supplied water to 250 customers in Yardley and planned to sewer much of the area in 1996 and 1997.
More than 60,000 feet of water line was worth $3 million to the city, Reed said. Yardley lies within the city’s planned water and sewer service area.
“The request takes into consideration our interest in that area,” Reed said.
County Commissioner Steve Hasson said any move by the city to delay incorporation or annex the area would “endanger the health, safety and welfare of the citizens residing in that area by removing a significant portion of the assessed valuation.
“This will create ill will with the county and with the new city.”
Joe McKinnon, co-chairman of the incorporation drive, offered this warning to the council: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors’ land.”
Two Yardley-area property owners approved the city’s actions, saying they wanted the chance to decide themselves what they want to do.
“Indeed, I’m honored that the property I own is in the area being discussed here and is of such a valuable nature to be grabbed,” said David Shea of Shea Construction Inc. “I say the citizens deserve the right of choice as to where they want to belong.”
Criticism of the council’s move didn’t start at the regular meeting, but earlier in the day when eight incorporation boosters, including Hasson, picketed City Hall during a downpour.
“I just think it’s unconscionable for another municipality to place its own interests above those of a fledgling city,” said Hasson, who last year announced he would run for mayor if the Valley incorporates.
Also Monday, the council:
Set the city’s property tax levy.
The proposed rate drops 37 cents - 7.6 percent - from last year’s, from $4.80 per $1,000 of assessed value to $4.43.
City taxes make up about one-third of a resident’s property tax bill. Residents also pay property taxes to the county, fire districts and school districts.
Voted 6-1 to issue $1.2 million in bonds to develop a geographic information system.
Merrick and Co., of Aurora, Colo., plans to create a digital map consisting of several layers. The maps would computerize the locations of things such as stormwater drainage, property boundaries, buildings, zoning and sewers.
They would be used to plan under the state’s Growth Management and to develop the Stormwater Management Plan.
These bonds, known as councilmanic bonds - which can’t exceed 1.5 percent of the city’s total assessed valuation - don’t require a public vote and are paid back with city revenues.
These bonds would be repaid within five to 10 years with with money from the real estate excise tax, capital improvements fund and utility departments.
Total cost of the bonds including interest and fees is about $1.6 million.
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