Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Airway Heights housing reaches limit


January 10, 2019

The last parcel of land zoned for multifamily residences in Airway Heights is officially moving forward with designs, marking the end of an era for multifamily development — at least for now.

Arrowleaf Townhomes, a 52-lot subdivision, will eventually house 72 residential units complete with roadway improvements, stormwater management and a community center.

The subdivision will be built on two parcels of land in the northeast area of town on the 13500 block of West 6th Avenue. Though the development is still in the permitting process, a public hearing on its construction was held Dec. 28, at which time the city determined that the proposal “will not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment.”

Construction is estimated to start no later than summer 2019.

The townhomes will be designated for low to middle-income housing and residents will have to qualify, Public Works Director Kevin Anderson said.

For families looking to avoid apartment living, the fourth phase of the Sekani development on 12th Avenue was just approved last month. That plat will eventually house 20 or more single-family residences.

Many townhome subdivisions are technically designated “single-family” but the city’s main focus in recent years has been the development of several multifamily complexes.

“There’s pressure from Fairchild and Amazon and a very high interest in not just single-family, which seems to trickle in slowly, but in multifamily,” Anderson said. “That’s where developers are really investing, and I think there’s a wave of construction for residential needs.”

The city completed the Basalt Ridge and Galena apartments on 6th Avenue last year, and the new Northern Heights Apartments on South Garfield Road are substantially completed. Despite the fact that the Northern Heights units are not completely finished, the complex is nearly at capacity for occupants.

“We’re starting to run out of land that can be used for multifamily,” Anderson said. “When that land is gone, if all you have left is commercial zoning, that’s the way it is.”

As of this week, there’s no “starting” about it. At the city’s Jan. 7 City Council meeting, City Manager Albert Tripp announced the design progress on the Arrowleaf plat, taking Airway Heights out of the apartment game for the moment.

The city still has plenty of land zoned for commercial and industrial development, Anderson said.

The amount of land available is dictated by the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which is currently being updated.

The 2006 plan approved by the city zoned nearly 17 percent of its available land —about 514.16 acres — as residential for single-family homes, duplexes, townhomes and multifamily apartment buildings. About 60 percent of city land, or 1,806 acres, was set aside for commercial and industrial uses.

Finding more room for housing isn’t as simple as a rezone. Rezones are difficult, costly endeavors with a certain amount of risk associated with them, Anderson said, making it unlikely that the city will go through that process any time soon.

But Tripp said the Comprehensive Plan update is now underway and city officials are looking at amending certain chapters and addressing issues across the board.

“It comes down to what the vision the city has for itself through the Comprehensive Plan,” Anderson said. “Plus, you can’t plot residential developments into Accident Potential Zones for Fairchild.”

Accident Potential Zones dictate where buildings can be constructed near Fairchild Air Force Base so as not to interfere with their aircraft or operations.

Anderson said maintaining a compatible partnership with the base is a top priority and is one of the city’s “main concerns.”

Another development on tribal land is in the works as well. The Kalispel Tribe is building a 204-unit apartment complex tentatively titled “Beau West” that will include a paved drive, parking, water, sewer and storm systems. The 9.86 acre property, located on Hayford Road, is currently undeveloped.

SEPA documents filed on the project indicate that approximately 350 – 420 people would live in the complex, and that eventually an additional four acres on the south end of the site could house up to 120 more units with parking.

While the city has contracted to assist in building inspections for the proposed complex, that development is completely under the Kalispel purview. Kalispel officials could not be reached for comment.

While housing options in Airway Heights are expanding, so is its population, and current trends suggest that growth won’t be slowing down any time soon.

“In 2017 we had over 7 percent growth,” Anderson said. “We’re still tabulating the numbers for 2018, but I believe it’ll be around 5 percent and the same for 2019.”

Shannen Talbot can be reached at


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