Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Alternative discussion

Airway Heights council talks about housing project


An alternative housing project first brought forward to the Airway Heights Planning Commission earlier this month received some additional talk at the City Council’s monthly study session Monday, Aug. 26.

The City Council discussed the proposed rezone of a subdivision located on Craig Road north of Highway 2, bringing other non-action items to the table that will appear at future council meetings. The project has drawn some criticism from area jurisdictions, given its proximity to the Joint Land Use Study 65 decibel noise contour lines.

A developer is seeking to rezone the property from R-2 and R-M (manufactured homes), into a single R-3 zone to build quadplex apartments, with a purpose of making them affordable for residents living in Accident Potential Zone Two. The zone has been part of an ongoing effort to fight encroachment on Fairchild Air Force Base. Zones R-2 and R-M are allotted seven to 10 units per acre, while R-3 zones can have anywhere from 10 to 20 units per acre.

The housing proposal has already been through a SEPA comment period.

“This is kind of a freaky zone,” Development Services Director Derrick Braaten said, in regards to the project’s proximity to the JLUS borders.

Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director J.C. Kennedy said the property value of an upscale home would prove more beneficial to the neighboring Aspen Grove Park, in which the city invested $600,000 earlier this year through grants and matching funds. He noted the apartments would be going in a place where they weren’t originally planned, and that the city is already behind in providing one acre of parks per 1,000 residents, particularly when the undeveloped 70-acre park is removed from the equation.

Councilman Barron Williamson said turning down the development, when no other promising alternative housing options in the city have arisen, would be contradictory to the city’s goal throughout the APZ Two density reduction project.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed rezone at its next meeting, Monday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.

During the meeting, Braaten said an Airway Heights resident, Paul Freeman, was interested in filling a vacant position on the Planning Commission. The position’s term expires Jan. 31, 2014, only five months away. A fifth commission position is still open with the hope an Airway Heights resident, or someone with an interest in the city, particularly with a business background will fill the spot.

Also at the meeting, Public Works Director Kelly Williquette discussed a task order involving TD&H Engineering and GEO Engineers and a measurement of reclaim water withdrawals at the city’s new well site. The Department of Ecology is requesting a study to prove how much water is actually going back into the West Plains paleochannels for future use. Water rights were also a part of the proposed quadplex rezone earlier in the meeting.

“We’re trying to maximize our water rights for the well,” Williquette said.

Currently the city is pulling 2,300 gallons per minute, and is putting 500,000 – 600,000 gallons per day back into the paleochannel.

The work will cost $20,600 if no new test wells are drilled. Additional wells are expected to cost $5,000 - $10,000, if needed.

“Hopefully it won’t be necessary,” Williquette said. “We’re pretty well surrounded by test wells.”

The new reclaimed water well has been consistently performing strong for Airway Heights throughout the testing and since its official start date back in June.

“Right now with this new well, we’re doing great, the new well has been fantastic,” he said. “We haven’t seen a decline in our water table.”

The City Council also brought up amending its municipal code relating to animals. Some residents have requested that cats be licensed, in addition to other requests made by citizens. Among those include being able to keep chickens and cows, bees and other animals. Braaten said the city’s current ordinance conflicts with the municipal code, which will be an easy fix once his department has a clear direction from the City Council.

Council members expressed concern regarding other animals, asking whether they would be considered pets or livestock. Exotic pets, as well as an attempt to clarify the definition of the word “exotic,” were also brought into the equation.

Councilwoman Tanya Dashiell asked if a good portion of the residents were wanting the changes. If a large percentage of residents were in favor of raising chickens, then it would be more feasible to make a change that affects the rest of the city’s population.

“I’m not making changes for a 1-percent issue,” she said.

Later in the discussion, all of the City Council agreed that a series of town hall meetings would be beneficial to gauge the public interest.

James Eik can be reached at


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