February 14, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 43

Visions occupy Airway Heights Planning Commission

Comprehensive plan work focuses on departmental views for future growth

Reviewing vision statements took up the bulk of the Monday, Feb. 11 meeting of the Airway Heights Planning Commission.

Discussions regarding chapter three of the city’s comprehensive plan continued this month, marking the fifth time the chapter was presented to the commission. The commission already approved the first part of the chapter, which included issues facing the city.

The Planning Commission spent much of the meeting going through vision statements for some of the larger aspects in the city, such as land use, transportation, utilities and parks and recreation. Little had changed from January when the commission approached them last.

“The general consensus was that they were close, but needed some work with wording,” city planner Derrick Braaten said.

Wording was specifically important when the commission came to the essential public facilities section. Items like prisons, airports, transportation hubs and garbage dumps are included as essential public facilities. Braaten said the wording present in the vision statement was that the city largely had placed enough of them in city limits, although he stressed that the commission had final say in the document.

Regarding its capital facilities, the commission said the city’s vision should be to ensure facilities were in place for future growth. Services like water, sewer, transportation and maximizing the efficiency of existing capital facilities to meet the current and future needs of residents and businesses.

“We strive to have it in place right before they need it,” Braaten said.

Following the discussion and some revisions by the commission, Braaten noted that several new business inquiries have happened lately. Among the newer businesses is No Surrender Tattoo. Given the number of new inquiries, there is a certain optimism that the economy is on the rebound, albeit in a different fashion than in previous years.

“2013 is going to be a booming year,” he said. “It’ll be different.”

The difference will likely be in the type of developments approaching the city. Commercial activity, he said, was on a rebound and some apartment complexes would likely shape some of the growth.

Braaten also presented the commission with an update regarding Spokane Transit Authority’s proposal to build a West Plains transit center on vacant land at exit 272 on I-90.

The transit center would connect Airway Heights, Medical Lake and Cheney, providing transit access to residential and industrial areas adjacent to its location.

Last year, representatives from STA visited West Plains cities, presenting the plan, which includes the implementation of a high performance transit network throughout its system. The proposed transit center location is on the southern side of I-90 at the Medical Lake exit, ranked highest for good access to both I-90 and nearby development.

Currently, anyone seeking to travel from Airway Heights or Medical Lake to Cheney must first ride into Spokane, change buses and travel back out to the West Plains.

“It makes it so that the West Plains can cycle with the West Plains itself,” Braaten said.

The general feeling was excitement from the commission, with some wondering about the timeline of the project.

“Is it on their wishlist, or are they serious about it,” planning commission chair Rita Osborne asked.

Braaten said if the commission was interested, he could schedule for a STA representative to attend a future meeting and speak about the project.

Approximately 10 percent of all travelers on I-90 in the area are transit-related.

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

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