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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Testimony sought on zone change

Spokane County considering rules for rural developments

Spokane County residents get a chance Tuesday to sound off on proposed changes to the zoning law that covers certain housing developments in rural areas.

County commissioners will take public testimony on proposed changes on rural cluster development, a topic that pits residents who want to preserve the rural character of some areas such as Green Bluff and Peone Prairie against developers and their neighbors hoping to switch their land from agriculture to family homes.

Cluster development allows rural residences to be built on lots smaller than the county standard 10 acres, provided the homes are relatively close together with large amounts of adjoining open space.

In May the county Planning Commission recommended some changes in the current zoning laws. Homes could be built on two-acre lots, and a new formula would allow fewer homes per development than currently allowed. But the formula could give a developer some credit for unbuildable land, such as a floodplain, in determining the number of houses allowed.

The open space would have to be used for farming, forestry or wildlife habitat, and homes couldn’t be built closer than 100 feet from the property line.

The Planning Commission also split 2-2 on whether a development must obtain a conservation easement for land in the open space, which essentially means nothing could ever be built on it. A recent court ruling says that building can occur on open space in a cluster development if the zoning for that land changes at some future date. Critics say that means there’s no guarantee open space won’t be filled with homes or other buildings in the future.

The cluster development hearing will be part of the county commissioners’ 5:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday in the basement of the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway Ave. A decision isn’t expected for several weeks.

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