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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Boundary review board eliminated

County also rejects residential zoning change near airport

Spokane County’s Boundary Review Board will be dissolved Jan. 31 as an expensive anachronism.

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to close the $220,000-a-year office on grounds that changes in state law leave the board little room to balance competing interests in major annexations.

Also Tuesday, commissioners unanimously rejected developers’ request for comprehensive plan and zoning changes that would have allowed apartments near Spokane International Airport.

Zoning on 7.8 acres at the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 2 and Geiger Boulevard would have gone from light industrial to mixed use.

Commissioners said residential encroachment would jeopardize the airport.

They deferred action until 2 p.m. next Tuesday on another zoning proposal that would allow more apartments near the intersection of Waikiki and North Five Mile roads.

Final action on the 2012 county budget was deferred until 10 a.m. today.

Eliminating the Boundary Review Board will shave $175,609 from the general fund budget. Commissioners plan to allocate $44,391 to keep the three-person office open through January.

Longtime Director Susan Winchell and two board members said the agency provides the only forum for residents of unincorporated areas to be heard by a board with no stake in the outcome.

But Commissioner Todd Mielke said the Boundary Review Board’s role is now “much more of an administrative process” for fire districts and other junior taxing districts.

Major annexations by cities have been removed almost entirely from the boundary board’s jurisdiction.

“These annexations are all but a foregone conclusion for us to deal with,” Commissioner Mark Richard said, citing recent Spokane takeovers of tax-rich areas on North Division Street and the West Plains. “Ultimately, you feel kind of defeated.”

The boundary board was established in 1967 under a state law aimed at regulating growth. Since then, that role has been largely supplanted by the Growth Management Act.

Counties now may dissolve their boundary boards if comprehensive plans and “consistent development regulations” are in place.

Several counties have exercised that authority, and only 17 boards remain in place, commissioners said.