County Commissioners Could Expand Urban Growth Area

By Steve Jackson

 Spokane County commissioners are looking at bringing new land into what is called the Urban Growth Area. They want public input on what some fear could be a gold mine for developers, with citizens having to foot some of the bill.

The options being discussed could add nearly 6,000 acres of land that currently is permitted only limited growth to allow for subdivisions and 1,000 acres for commercial and industrial use. Commissioner Todd Mielke says the Commissioners are basing expansion of the Urban Growth Area, or UGA,  on projections that the county will grow from 480,000 residents today to 612,000 by 2031.

Mielke: “The average density under the urban growth boundary is about 4 to 6 houses per acre. The average household is now about 2.3 resident, so that’s about 16 people per acre, so that tells you how many acres you need to bring in to accommodate that population.”

Mielke says that complicating that formula is finding areas that already have the correct infrastructure…roads, sewer and the like, that can handle a population increase:

Mielke: “Like Indian trail road has always struggled with transportation issues, so to extend developments north of Indian trail doesn’t solve a transportation challenge, but if I put that population near hiway two I don’t have that transportation challenge.”

But not all who are in favor of expanding the UGA are thinking of just of the need for living space.

Klitzke: “The focus would be more whats good for the landowner rather than whats good for the community”

That’s Kitty Klitzke of the group Futurewise, which works in to reign in sprawl.She says there are plenty of rural landowners who like to see the UGA expand, so they can make a tidy profit.

Klitzke: “Sometimes it’s a landowner that wants to sell to developers and sometimes it a landowner that owns the land, and is counting on an urban expansion at some of the hearings it was clear some folks were counting on the land being included in the UGA so they could make a profit.”

Klitzke says the other issue is that without existing infrastructure to support the proposed growth, someone will have to pick up the tab. She cites information from the Environmental impact Statement for one of the options the county is examining

Klitzke: “Mostly the services like school, fire and police, and if you totaled those up they would add up to about a billion dollars, and that doesn’t include transportation impacts.”

Klitzke argues that rather than expecting the public to foot that bill, the county should try to fill in the already existing gaps in development that are already in the current Urban growth Area.
A public meeting to take input on the new Urban Growth Boundaries will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the lower level of the county Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway.

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