Staff Reporter 

Project would provide affordable housing in Airway Heights


A public hearing at the Airway Heights Planning Commission’s meeting last week offered in-depth details into a proposed multifamily housing project on South Craig Road near Highway 2.

After missing the last two meetings due to a lack of a quorum, the commission heard the plans from Defender Development’s Steve Emtman, who wants to provide an affordable housing option for people living in the Accident Potential Zone leading to Fairchild Air Force Base’s runway. The property is currently zoned as R-2, and could handle seven to 10 units per acre.

Other surrounding nearby land is zoned for mobile home housing. Emtman asked the commission to change the zoning to R-3 for multifamily housing, which allows a minimum of 10 units per acre and a maximum of 20 per acre.

The issue would normally be a simple zoning change, however part of Emtman’s property resides in the 70-decibel Joint Land Use Study sound contour, requiring approval from the JLUS Steering Committee.

Development Services Director Derrick Braaten said the only written comments received on the project were from the city’s Public Works Department. He also said that previous commissioners’ input included concerns of having a large amount of low-income housing in one particular area.

“There’s a concern that we’d have a re-creation of the south side next to the new $600,000 park,” he said. “But that assumes a negative character of people. Just because someone moves into a studio apartment doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.”

Emtman acquired the undeveloped property from State Bank two years ago. To date, one cottage home has been built on the lot, with the finished buildout having a neighborhood feel, he said.

“I don’t build low quality stuff,” Emtman said. “I like to take pride in what I do.”

Addressing some of the concerns, he said properties nearer to the Aspen Grove Park will be a bit on the higher end, noting the versatility of the location.

“When you move into a new place like that, you do take pride in it,” Commissioner Lorna Jones said.

Ultimately, the commission approved the suggestion of 15 units per acre, which was forwarded to the City Council for two ordinance readings.

The commission also passed two action items, the first of which changes the time of Planning Commission meetings. Due to the City Council’s decision to add a second work study session each month, the Planning Commission meetings will change to the second Wednesday of each month.

“We’ll still have one meeting per month,” Braaten said.

During his staff report, Braaten said water and sewer lines were being placed along north of Deer Heights Road, where the future road extension will go. Construction in the area is ongoing.

He also said the city is looking to eventually place a light at the intersection to help alleviate some traffic issues in the area. The city of Spokane is already pursuing a traffic light at the Highway 2 and Flint Road intersection to aid congestion and safety, given the growing number of vehicles on Highway 2 each day.

James Eik can be reached at


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