Spokane County commissioners on Tuesday decided not to ban lots smaller than 40 acres on thousands of acres near urban areas.
The commission also voted to continue restricting growth in two flood-prone neighborhoods for at least a year, while engineers study the problem and draft plans for dealing with runoff.
About a third of the county already is zoned “exclusive agriculture,” where the 40-acre restriction is meant to preserve prime farm land. Most of the people who live in those remote areas are farmers, most of the roads are gravel and many of the buildings are barns.
In November, a crowd of about 300 people blasted a plan to expand the exclusive agriculture zone to three areas where farms are rapidly being subdivided into 10-acre lots, the smallest allowed.
The proposal would have slowed growth in the Foothills area south of Mount Spokane, the Four Mounds area in northwestern Spokane County and near the community of Mica. But residents argued it would also lower the value of their land.
After the November hearing, the county planning commission voted to recommend that commissioners retain the current regulations. Commissioners on Tuesday adopted that recommendation.
In a related matter, commissioners postponed a decision on whether to ban lots smaller than 20 acres near Mica Peak and in much of northeastern Spokane County. The “forest zone” would include thousands of acres owned primarily by timber companies.
The minimum lot size on that land now is 10 acres.
A citizens committee originally proposed that a much larger area be included in the forest zone, and that the county ban lots smaller than 40 acres.
The planning commission scaled back the proposal and voted to recommend commissioners allow 20-acre lots. Anything more restrictive, they said, would unnecessarily infringe on private property rights while doing little to protect forests.
If comments he made Tuesday are an indication, Commissioner Phil Harris likely will vote against the change from 10-to 20-acre lots. Harris, who lives in the wooded area northwest of Spokane, said the change is unfair to people who want to live on small forested lots “and be stewards of the trees.”
But Commissioner John Roskelley said land that’s already subdivided wouldn’t be affected, even if it’s not yet developed.
“Commissioner Harris, there are thousands of 10-acre lots out there that can be developed for years and years to come,” Roskelley said.
Commissioners said they will decide July 29 whether to approve the forest zone.
Tuesday’s action to protect two flood-prone neighborhoods - Glenrose Prairie on the South Hill and Eaglewood on the North Side - means emergency measures passed in May will continue at least until May 1998.
In the meantime, developers can’t get building permits for houses with basements, and new subdivisions won’t be approved unless they have elaborate flood-control plans.
Residents of both neighborhoods blame new subdivisions for flooded basements in winter and spring.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEXT? The commission may vote July 29 on whether to approve the forest zone.
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