Airway Heights’ version of the Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) is on its way to the City Council, following a unanimous recommendation by the Planning Commission.
At its Monday, Dec. 10 meeting, City Planner Derrick Braaten said the current version of JLUS was built for the city, after extensive discussions between surrounding jurisdictions. The city has been involved with the JLUS process since the original report was released in 2009. Most of the work, however, has taken place in the last 12 to 18 months.
“It’s a living document,” he said.
JLUS, as approved by Spokane County and the city of Spokane had three defined military influence areas (MIA), which designated levels of protection to Fairchild Air Force Base. The levels are based on sound contours measured in day-night intervals (LdN), to provide the maximum number of potential missions for the base.
Braaten said the city agreed with most of the recommendations in the document passed by the county and Spokane, with the exception of two elements.
“There were two recommendations the city did not agree to, and those were the consolidation of MIA 3/4 into a single MIA and the total prohibition on residential in the 65 LdN sound contour,” he said.
Airway Heights previously used the 1995 Air Installation Compatibility Use Zone (AICUZ) document, which noted the sound contours for Fairchild’s previous mission. Those contours are larger than the ones produced by the current refueling mission at the base, and offered wider protection for potential future missions.
Braaten said the most detrimental part of the MIA consolidation was prohibiting new development in the 65 decibel zone, which runs on both sides of Highway 2 throughout the city.
“It basically would have shut down all, if not most, residential development,” he said.
The county’s document largely deals with a rural setting, as much of the property west and south of Airway Heights’ borders is rural.
“This is an urban community, built to urban standards,” Braaten said. “The county and city provisions are for rural standards.”
Jack Kestell, a property developer building homes in the city, had concerns.
“I know that protecting Fairchild is important,” he said. “But I’ve been a real estate broker for 35 years and I really believe in property rights. I don’t think that it’s right to regulate private property rights in this way.”
Kestell said future growth in the city would eventually take in surrounding areas, currently under the county’s version of the ordinance.
“As communities grow, the urban growth boundary changes. So those people are going to lose the ability to develop their property,” he said.
He went on to mention a longtime property owner in the county who had hoped to eventually develop his land and divide it, but is now unable to do so unless it fits with JLUS’ guidelines.
“I caution the potential ramifications of taking those private property rights,” Kestell said.
Brandon Haugen, manager of the Kalispel Development Committee, said the version of JLUS being considered wasn’t as effective at protecting Fairchild as the county’s finalized version.
He also asked the city to further clarify and define tribal operations on the Kalispel’s property, as it might be confusing to the general public. Since the tribe owns its property, and is a sovereign nation, it doesn’t necessarily fall under the JLUS guidelines.
Haugen also noted the “dorsal fin” of the 1995 AICUZ document, which is out of place in today’s Fairchild mission. The fin occurs where planes bank right and return to the base when conducting training operations.
The City Council will take up the document at a meeting in the near future.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.