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Spokane County weighs zoning changes near airport runways that would ban home building

Aug. 1, 2022 Updated Mon., Aug. 1, 2022 at 5:05 p.m.

Spokane County may soon ban new residential development on some lands near airports.

The Spokane County commissioners in August will vote on proposed zoning amendments that would prohibit building new homes at the ends of runways.

Scott Chesney, the county’s building and planning director, said the amendments are “relatively small” but of “significant importance.” The goal, Chesney said, is to prevent development from encroaching on airstrips.

Spokane County code includes three different zoning designations for lands at the end of runways. Those thin, trapezoidal lands are called airport compatibility zones.

“It’s all about safety,” Chesney said. “Airplanes that are close to the ground and going slow are in their most vulnerable positions. When things go wrong, they get very messy.”

The Spokane International Airport, Felts Field and Deer Park airports all have compatibility zones.

Fairchild Air Force Base has zones of its own that are treated differently by county code and wouldn’t be changed by the amendments.

Right now, Spokane County allows some new residential development within airport compatibility zones 1, 2 and 3 so long as it doesn’t increase density – the number of housing units per acre.

If the commissioners approve the amendments, new residential development will be blocked entirely.

Chesney said the amendments probably wouldn’t have much of an impact on property owners.

For example, the Spokane International Airport already owns much of the land within its own compatibility zones.

Plus, people don’t usually want to live at the end of a runway.

“Most people don’t want to live close to a commercial airport,” Chesney said, “because of the noise.”

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