January 3, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 37

Open houses tried to explain JLUS impact

The latest draft of Spokane County’s Joint Land Use Study received mixed reactions when presented to the public at a series of open houses this past March.

At the time JLUS was entering the last stage of its drafting process, the document is set for discussion in Medical Lake and Airway Heights in the coming months.

Formed around three Military Influence Areas (MIA), areas of Spokane County, Medical Lake and Airway Heights are affected on the West Plains. MIA Two follows a five-mile radius around Fairchild Air Force Base while MIA Three plots a course around the area where noise from military aircraft can exceed a 65 decibel sound level. This spans from Deep Creek to West Spokane and from north of Airway Heights to the northern edge of Medical Lake.

Homeowners in MIA Two would need to sign off on an aviation easement, allowing planes to fly over their property without turning to file complaints later, and acknowledge they were aware of a military base near their home. MIA Three requires sound mitigation efforts from home developers in order to keep the ambient noise inside a house under 65 decibels.

The plan seeks to address non-compatible land use around the base and maximize the potential of current and future missions. Officials also hope the study will encourage the selection of Fairchild as a recipient for the new KC-46A tanker, which would replace the KC-135 Stratotanker.

At open houses held in Airway Heights and Medical Lake, members of the public expressed concerns regarding their rights as private property owners and how the study, if implemented, would affect them. Both meetings saw residents say they’re frustrated that the document puts more effort into protecting the base than homeowners.

Medical Lake City Planner Glenn Scholten said MIA Three extends as far as it does on the south side of the runway because as planes take off, their engines give off excessive noise. When landing, however, they are quieter.

Those statements tied in to a question regarding the consistency of sound levels. One resident asked if areas inside MIA Three really did hit 65 decibels, and why those weren’t excluded.

Questions were also directed to a hole in the MIA Three area, where a majority of Airway Heights’ residential zones lie.

Meetings also saw residents asking for more time to comment on the document, saying that many elements in the document are common sense.

The open houses were held from Feb. 21 to 23, taking place at the Waste to Energy Plant, Airway Heights and Medical Lake. Comments were due today, March 1.

Residents said the latest draft of the JLUS document is hundreds of pages long, and 10 days wasn’t long enough to create an accurate statement.

Officials and representatives at the open houses said the event wasn’t the last time that public opinion would be sought.

Following the initial comment deadline, the JLUS Technical Advisory Group will review public input. From there, it will return to area jurisdictions for their own review and adjustments. At those meetings, they said, members of the public can help by commenting on the document that would affect their own jurisdiction.

Those public hearings will take place in the next couple of months as Spokane County hopes the document is approved before the decision on the new tankers is made.

Residents also expressed concerns regarding their property values and asked if there were plans for compensation, should they drop. Some argued that since they were now signing off on avigation easements and land use restrictions, they should receive a tax break.

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

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