A 555-unit West Plains housing development may proceed despite the Cheney School District’s protest that it lacks money to educate the children who will live there.
Spokane County Hearing Examiner Michael Dempsey said in a Jan. 30 ruling that the school district failed to provide enough information to support its request for “mitigation fees” from owners and developers of the proposed Aspen Park subdivision.
The school district won’t appeal the decision, finance and operation director Brian Aiken said Tuesday.
“We are not in any way, shape or form opposed to developments,” Aiken said. “We just want to grow responsibly.”
The Aspen Park subdivision is to be on 137 acres along the west side of Spotted Road, about 660 feet north of the intersection with Hallett Road and about a mile south of Interstate 90 and Spokane International Airport.
Foursquare Properties plans 395 single-family houses and 160 townhouse apartment units on 137 acres owned by October Fund, 225 W. Main St., Spokane; Richard Moore, 8127 W. 57th Ave., Spokane; Alan Sherman, 20610 W. Salnave Road, near Cheney; and Helen Morgan, 6220 S. Spotted Road.
Foursquare submitted a revised proposal in September and Cheney school officials objected in a Dec. 10 public hearing. Dempsey kept the hearing record open until Jan. 7 so Foursquare could answer the objections and district officials could comment on the response.
Dempsey said a private discussion among the parties failed to produce any agreement.
According to Dempsey’s written decision, school officials requested mitigation fees in a letter they submitted to him a day before the public hearing. But they said they had expressed interest in collecting impact fees a year earlier in a letter to Spokane County commissioners.
“We basically just sent the letter saying, if they would be willing to work out an agreement with us, we’d be appreciative,” Aiken said. “While we were hopeful that we might get agreement, we also understand and agree with the hearing examiner’s position on that”
Dempsey said his letter from the school district advised that enrollment was up by 400 students since 2004 and 900 more students were expected in the coming six years. The Aspen Park subdivision could add more than 200 students, school officials stated.
The school district already was using portable classrooms at many of its schools and was running out of space, Dempsey was told. Overall, district officials said, 3,200 units of new housing was proposed within the district.
Aiken said Tuesday that a new study predicts 1,200 more students in the next six years, for a total around 5,000. He said the district now has 3,811 students and 21 portable classrooms, and has ordered eight more portables for the coming school year.
Some neighbors opposed Aspen Park project and complained that nearby Windsor Elementary School, at 5504 W. Hallett Road, already was overcrowded.
Dempsey said the school district’s attorney asked him to require Foursquare Properties to enter a “voluntary agreement” to pay mitigation fees.
Foursquare objected that the state pays the district $5,351 a year for each student and that Aspen Park residents would contribute property taxes to the district. School officials countered that, in the current economy, it might be difficult to win the necessary 60 percent voter support for a bond measure to build new classrooms.
Dempsey faulted the district for failing to specify how the subdivision would affect individual schools, whether problems could be alleviated by busing students to schools with excess capacity, or whether the district owned or planned to buy land for new schools.
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