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

As population grows, Spokane County seeks public input on comprehensive plan

Spokane County will hold two workshops at the end of the week to gather public feedback on its comprehensive plan – the framework that dictates what can be built on land within county borders, and where.

The 90-minute workshops will be in the county commissioners’ hearing room in the Public Works Building at 1026 W. Broadway Ave. They’ll begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday.

Amendments to the comprehensive plan are typically approved once a year. Under Washington’s Growth Management Act, counties must conduct thorough reviews of their comprehensive plans every eight years.

“We’re at the beginning of this process, so we really want to get some feedback from the public and see what kind of concerns they have,” said Steve Davenport, a senior planner with the county.

Spokane County’s population grows more slowly than other parts of Washington, and most of that growth is because of migration, Davenport said. The county’s population is older than average, and births outpace deaths by only a small margin.

“Fewer babies,” he said.

Still, officials predict the county’s population will grow from just shy of 500,000 to more than 583,000 over the next two decades, an increase of nearly 17 percent.

The cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley are expected to see the biggest growth with 20,859 and 14,650 new residents, respectively. Cheney, Airway Heights and Liberty Lake each are expected to gain between 14,000 and 16,000 people. And most of the county’s smaller cities also should see their numbers increase.

That growth – coupled with Spokane County’s diverse landscape and the competing interests of residents, developers and environmental groups – presents many challenges for planners such as Davenport. Last year, the county settled litigation over the boundaries of its urban growth area, which is a key part of the comprehensive plan.

Common concerns, Davenport said, include traffic congestion and noise issues that may arise from high-density residential projects. He expects much of this week’s deliberations will focus on areas north and south of Spokane Valley, north of Spokane and on the West Plains.

“There’s a lot of potential growth in those areas because there’s a lot of vacant land that can be readily developed,” he said.