May 16, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 4

Spokane comment delays Airway Heights planning

Public hearings on zoning commercial, mixed use documents remain opens through June

The journey to finalize Airway Heights’ new C-2 general commercial and mixed-use overlay documents will have to wait one more month.

At the Monday, May 13 meeting of the Airway Heights Planning Commission, development services director Derrick Braaten said a comment received from the city of Spokane will require some additional research before a final recommendation is given to the City Council. Both documents relate to the Joint Land Use Study regulations passed by the City Council last year. Separate public hearings took place for both documents at the meeting. Due to the comment, final recommendation will take place at the June 10 meeting, at which point the public hearings will continue.

The new mixed-use overlay would set up multi-family residential zones outside of the direct flight path for planes as well as setting guidelines for mixed-use buildings along Highway 2 that permit residential occupancy.

Developers seeking to build on designated mixed-use property would need to pass through a hearing examiner as well as incorporate sound mitigation into the building’s construction.

“JLUS is an overlay, and incorporates elements into the C-2,” Braaten said.

Part of the changes include raising the maximum building height from 50 feet to 60 feet.

A long discussion related to both documents took place at the meeting regarding the new maximum building height proposal. Commissioner Laura Brown said raising the maximum height was irresponsible and unnecessary, given that the city doesn’t have taller buildings at the moment and allowing taller buildings near the Fairchild Air Force base flight pattern could increase the potential for casualties in a plane crash.

“I think 60 feet is crazy excessive in those zones,” she said.

Braaten said Airway Heights has something of a “height hole” compared to Spokane County and the city of Spokane, which have maximum building heights of 140 feet in certain areas of the West Plains. Due to the lower height levels in Airway Heights, he said at least one company has chosen not to locate in the city limits.

Brown was still uncomfortable with putting such a high density of people near the flight path, and the potential of taller buildings in the city.

“It doesn’t fit the character of Airway Heights,” she said.

Braaten said the mixed-use overlay and building height proposal were both vetted and signed off by Fairchild.

There are some structures already at the 50-foot height limit, including the Panda Express sign and other various elements throughout the city.

Also at the meeting, the commission looked at final changes to chapter three of the city’s comprehensive plan, covering community issues, visions and goals. The only alteration made was the addition of a historical summary which detailed past revisions and the reasons behind the section.

The commission verbally approved the document, which moves to a public hearing at the June 10 meeting.

During his staff report, Braaten said the safe routes to schools project stalled slightly due to some Department of Transportation concerns regarding curbs. The project will likely go out to bid in early July, still having the goal of completion by the time school is back in session after summer break.

The next Planning Commission meeting is Monday, June 10, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, during which three public hearings will take place.

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

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