Community leaders gathered last Wednesday, Dec. 19, to announce the implementation of Airway Heights’ Joint Land Use Study (JLUS), which sets development standards within the city.
The document, which passed the City Council earlier in the week, establishes a set of protective measures for Fairchild Air Force Base in order to ensure the surrounding land use is compatible with the base’s mission.
Col. Brian Newberry, Commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing said one of the first things he heard about when starting his job four months ago was JLUS.
“Community leaders told me how important JLUS was,” he said.
Mayor Patrick Rushing said the city already had strong protections in place relating to compatible development
“For years, we’ve implemented standards and worked with base personnel to manage growth in the city,” he said.
Airway Heights, from 2008 until this month, operated under a set of sound contours developed in the 1995 Air Installation Compatability Use Zones document. The sound contours reflected the amount of noise generated by planes from Fairchild’s previous mission flight pattern. They changed in 2005, decreasing the footprint, but Airway Heights opted to keep the larger contours in an effort to better protect the base from encroachment.
Questions asked at the press conference included whether the proposed Spokane Tribe Economic Project, north of Highway 2 and near Fairchild, would have to abide by the new development standards.
“Our city’s ordinance calls for every business that develops within the city meet JLUS regulations. Spokane Tribe has agreed to do that, and the Kalispel Tribe is also protected under those regulations, so we’re confident that any business that desires to build here, and we are open for business, with a clear understanding of what you can do, where you can do it,” Rushing said.
Among the requires includes that new developers in the 65-70 decibel areas will have to add sound reducing measures to their buildings to reduce the amount of noise coming from the outside. Other studies include land quantity analyses, conditional use permits and other steps developers must go through, and foot the bill for, in order to build.
“All projects, including the Spokane Tribe, thanks to their partnership with the city of Airway Heights, will have to go through a process that’s adopted in the document. Any project of that nature will have to go through a Conditional Use Process, which in addition to that, will have to meet stringent specific requirements in order to justify the need,” Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard said.
“Furthermore, it will also require consultation with Fairchild Air Force Base and their senior staff to ensure that in fact the project is compatible with Fairchild Air Force Base,” he added.
Richard said he hopes a similar group will be formed to have Medical Lake approve the document as well. After a lengthy deliberation process, Medical Lake voted to not approve the document earlier this year. Areas affected by JLUS in the city are more toward the north, however Military Influence Area Two extends into a large portion of the city and where future development in its urban growth area was to take place, until Spokane County voted to remove it.
The document also plays in line with efforts to obtain the new KC-46A tanker that would replace the aging KC-135 fleet, the main aircraft of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.
The relationship between Fairchild and the support of the Spokane region goes back to its very beginnings in the 1940s, when a group of residents donated their collective land to help establish the base. Since then, numerous efforts have taken place to ensure the base’s presence doesn’t go away.
“We are confident we have the best document that we can produce at this time,” Rushing said. “This is a living, breathing document. So as missions change, we have the ability to go back and change with those missions.”
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.