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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Boundaries at odds in the Valley

Spokane Valley City Council members have intensified their demand for a say in how land adjacent to the city is developed, threatening to appeal a county decision to expand its legally developable land if the county does not reach a joint planning agreement with the city in the next two weeks.

The county’s move to allow upward of 976 homes on the southeast edge of Spokane Valley without consulting the city on traffic and other issues “flies in the face of growth management,” said Councilman Steve Taylor.

In a letter supported unanimously by the council at its regular meeting on Tuesday, the city requests that a joint planning agreement be negotiated by Sept. 16.

“You have to have something on paper, in writing,” Taylor said.

If that doesn’t happen, the letter states, the city will appeal to the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board the county’s decision to add 419 acres off Barker Road to the urban growth area.

“It’s the process we’re concerned about,” said Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite.

Mandated by the state’s Growth Management Act, the urban growth boundaries are intended to prevent sprawl and ensure urban services keep up with development. Before the 2004 election changed the makeup of the county commission, the three-person board denied several requests to expand the boundaries, making more land available for urban-style development.

Developers appealed the denials to the hearings board in 2004. Before the hearings board heard the case, the county settled with the developers, offering them an additional public hearing if they dropped the appeal.

After the hearing in June, the new county commission approved six expansions to the urban growth area outside of Spokane Valley and in the Five Mile Prairie area.

The city argues that the county didn’t meet GMA requirements for coordination with affected cities when it approved the expansions. The letter contends the county did not submit them to a steering committee of elected officials or give the city sufficient notice before its decision.

“This issue has nothing to do with an attitude toward development,” said Taylor, who sits on the steering committee.

Instead, council members have said, the city is concerned that developments will overload intersections inside Spokane Valley, forcing the city to spend money to upgrade them to accommodate county residents.

“What they don’t want to admit is that road runs both directions,” said County Commissioner Phil Harris.

He said city residents also have an impact on roads and services the county pays for.

“I know what they are running up against, budgets are tight,” said Harris, adding that he doubts the issue will be resolved before the city’s deadline to appeal. “It’s going to have to be settled by the courts, frankly,” he said.

Commissioners Todd Mielke and Mark Richard could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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