Cheney Free Press -


Airway UGA 'land swap' gets some clarity

Proposal would allow possible development


Last updated 5/22/2021 at 10am

AIRWAY HEIGHTS — With Airway Heights being the fastest growing city in the state of Washington there is a seemingly never-ending need to find land on which to build to accommodate that surge.

Two residents holding 180 acres of land east of Hayford Road and north of U.S. Highway 2 would like to help by turning that property into those sought-after lots. But the Urban Grown Area boundaries, so far at least, stand in the way.

That issue was discussed at length at the May 10 Airway Heights City Council study session, much of it so-to-speak with so-called “inside baseball” knowledge. Amidst the hour-long discussion were, among other things, talk of land swaps, past legal fights and possibly to way forward to dissolve a complicated impasse.

The city’s Principal Planner Heather Trautman dove into the subject to try to bring it to a more understandable level for those who had not been able to hear prior discussion.

“Under normal circumstances the county is responsible for adopting urban growth areas,” Trautman explained.

Such areas can be for city who needed the area to accommodate their growth estimates. Or it could be an area that the county has designated for growth, because unincorporated area can also have urban densities.

The last time that the county adopted urban growth area boundaries that decision was appealed to an entity called the Eastern Washington Growth Hearings Board. A number of separate courts were also created that reviewed disputes over growth management related issues.

“What happened at the end of all of that was that there was a settlement with Spokane County in which they agreed to not expand or include additional urban growth area until 2025,” Trautman said.

This quashes expansion, but not efforts to “stretch the rubber band” and get creative in trying to get fixes such as the effort to do a land swap with Spokane County — figuratively and UGA speaking at least — that could open the land in question to the much-needed development.

“What happened was Spokane County, by sheer coincidence, owns 180 acres inside of the currently adopted urban growth area for the city of Airway Heights at the Spokane Motorsports Complex, more commonly known as the Spokane County Off-Road Vehicle Park. That property is located west of Spokane County Raceway.

“What the county did is they passed a resolution last October and said, ‘Oh, gosh, we’re willing to remove ourselves from the urban growth area because there is the potential for some developable land to be included in the UGA,’” Trautman explained.

That’s where the land swap discussion started.

The county’s a willing participant to give up their designation and allow a couple of families to move forward with an application for a new land use designation to a mixed use from its current rural traditional.

The process requires the county to notify other agencies adjacent to a development so they can comment. That outreach drew letters from the likes of the Washington State Department of Transportation, Fairchild Air Force Base and Spokane International Airport, each outlining a variety of concerns before moving forward.

Feeling the ever-growing pressure of dealing with growth, and knowing this parcel will likely help, council will consider authoring a letter to Spokane County which outlines Airway Heights goals into the future.

Comments to the county are due May 25.

Paul Delaney is a retired Free Press Publishing reporter and can be reached at


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