Mayor Vetoes Anti-Sprawl, Urban-Growth Ordinance

By Paige Browning

Monday, the mayor of Spokane made a rare use of his veto power and rejected a city council resolution regarding the urban growth area. Mayor David Condon says he will veto a recent resolution that barred contested developments outside the city limits from accessing city utilities.

The city council approved the measure 4-to-2, in March, in a move against urban sprawl. Sponsor Jon Snyder says it would have closed a development loophole, and protected city taxpayers from extra utility costs. Condon says he reluctantly decided to veto because of uncertainty for county developers and legal uncertainty.

Condon: “This ordinance, as well intended as it might be, falls short of delivering the smart growth outcome our community needs. It utilizes a utility ordinance to address land use and planning, which should be accomplished in a more collaborative and reasoned manner.”
 
The Spokane Homebuilders Association hailed Condon’s decision. But Snyder is disappointed, and so is the Center for Justice, the Lands Council, Futurewise, and other groups who joined him at a news conference.
 
The issue boils down to the Urban Growth Area, which the county commission approved last summer, but the state ultimately invalidated because it broke the growth management act. At that time, Condon himself opposed the expansion plans, but his veto allows city utility access there now. Snyder says the UGA expansion cost the city about $64-million in utilities and schools.
 
Snyder: “It functions like a stealth tax increase, because every time we have to spread out our service area, folks in the existing area end up having to pay more to deliver services over a wider and wider area.”
 
Mayor Condon claims the issue is about smart growth, and said the resolution would have applied to very few projects. But Snyder says there are two contested developments now that call for city utilities.

The city council has an option to override the mayor’s veto, but it requires five affirmative votes. That’s one more than the original resolution got.
 
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio
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