November 1, 2012 | Vol. 116 -- No. 28

Joint land use moves forward

Recommendation to repeal ordinance moves to Airway Heights City Council

The adoption of Spokane County’s Joint Land Use Study in Airway Heights took a large step forward Oct. 29 with the Planning Commission recommending repeal of the city’s current mixed-use ordinance.

The recommendation was forwarded to the City Council for its Monday, Nov. 5 meeting at 5:30 p.m. A public hearing is scheduled at the meeting to further explain the upcoming process regarding the city’s penultimate approval of JLUS.

For nearly the past year, the city has been in discussions with surrounding jurisdictions relating to JLUS and other land-use documents that will shape the future direction of Airway Heights and its growth in conjunction with missions at Fairchild Air Force Base. A plan to revise the city’s mixed-use overlay has been on hold since October last year.

“We’ve been in this hold-on-and-wait pattern for the past year,” city planner Derrick Braaten said.

The entire goal, from the city’s perspective, was to make the city’s mixed-use overlay more conforming to Fairchild’s mission, in accordance with the 1995 Air Installation Compatible Use Zones document. That document outlines the sound contours generated from Fairchild’s previous mission, however surrounding jurisdictions made comments that new standards in JLUS and future growth at the airport conflicted with some elements. Representatives from those jurisdictions, including Spokane County, the city of Spokane, Spokane International Airport and Airway Heights, have been in discussions throughout the year.

“The original reason we sought to modify the mixed-use overlay was due to the fact that the existing version in our code really doesn’t say anything. Because it doesn’t provide adequate guidance, it wasn’t considered to be something that was optimally protecting the health and safety of residents,” Braaten said. “It could create build situations that were not optimal.”

The goal, Braaten said, was to clarify what type of building scenarios were allowed in the sound contours emanating from Fairchild flight patterns.

“The city sought to clarify what it was looking for in mixed-use developments and set more standards associated with it rather than just the conditional use process,” he said.

Some residential developments were approved before becoming a part of the city. Braaten noted developments like the Sekani project east of Hayford Road was zoned under Spokane County rules, and was grandfathered in to the current system.

Braaten estimated the city’s approval of the JLUS document could come in March 2013, if everything goes to plan.

A workshop on the city’s mixed-use overlay will take place at the next Planning Commission meeting.

Airway Heights has been under an emergency moratorium on mixed-use building applications since earlier this year. At its last City Council study session, it extended the moratorium for a final time, until Dec. 3.

There is only one mixed-use development currently being built in the city, which was approved before the moratorium went into effect. It also resides outside of areas of concern.

The next Planning Commission meeting will take place Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers. Invitations were sent out to Airway Heights residents through their utility bill.

James Eik can be reached at james@cheneyfreepress.com.

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