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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Proposed tax increase for Fairchild smaller than expected

Spokane County officials on Tuesday lowered the estimated tax rate on a ballot measure to pay for removal of low-income residences beneath the runway approach to Fairchild Air Force Base. County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to place a property tax increase on the Nov. 5 ballot. The county initially said that the tax rate would be 7 to 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, but the resolution approved by the board calls for a tax of no more than 6.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That would equal $13 a year on a $200,000 home. The tax collections would be limited to no more than nine years. The money could only be used for purchase of residential property beneath the Fairchild landing and takeoff zone in Airway Heights, plus relocation costs for residents and demolition of existing structures, according to the resolution. The residential area targeted for removal is mainly occupied by low-income and elderly residents living in manufactured housing south of U.S. Highway 2. That area is in Fairchild’s accident potential zone for both takeoffs and landings on the northeast side of the base. With two housing units per acre, the area has about twice the number of people living beneath the flight approach than Air Force standards recommend. Buying the properties and relocating residents would reduce density to about a half-unit per acre, said Airway Heights City Manager Albert Tripp. County officials said seven parcels that have multiple tenants are the target of the proposed program. Tripp said those owners have indicated a willingness to sell and there would not be a need to force sales through condemnation. Airway Heights Mayor Patrick Rushing said residents living in the area have told him they are looking forward to moving to a proposed affordable housing project north of U.S. 2. A consortium of nonprofit agencies, local government and business interests is seeking to build 160 new units through grants and a state housing loan. Local governments over the past two years have adopted new land-use rules to prevent civilian encroachment around Fairchild. The goal is to protect Fairchild from anticipated rounds of base closings in coming years. County Commissioner Todd Mielke said the ballot measure asks voters to help in that effort. “It is a way for citizens to become involved” through a relatively short financial commitment, he said.