Sprawl leads to lower property values, higher taxes, increased obesity rates, shorter lives, and increased carbon pollution. So why are the Spokane County Commissioners trying to jam another Urban Growth Area expansion down our throats? (PHOTO: Indie Music Filter)

Sprawl sucks. It lowers our property values, increases our taxes, increases our obesity rates, shortens our lives, and increases greenhouse gas emissions. It also sucks the life out of our city centers, hollows out the arts and culture community, and drains top talent from sprawling regions. In short, sprawl has no place in Spokane’s urban planning agenda.

But the Board of County Commissioners (Al French, Todd Mielke, and Shelly O’Quinn) seem to think otherwise. They’ve moved forward with another costly Urban Growth Area expansion package backed by little quantitative research whatsoever, which could mean that Spokane will suffer through more sprawl on the Moran Prairie, Glenrose, Five Mile, Indian Trail, and in other areas across the county. This expansion would cost taxpayers millions in new service-extension fees, and it would lower quality of life across the county. We need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Here’s where you come in. In order to show the importance of infill to creating vibrant urban neighborhoods where people want to live, here’s what you can do.

1. Take a picture of your favorite vacant lot or building. It could be anywhere. For example, this weekend I noticed that the former Heroes & Legends space downtown is now vacant. There’s also this pretty ugly empty lot at 3rd and Division that we’ve written about before that needs revitalization and development. Take a picture.

2. Envision what the site could become. What would you like to see on the lot or in the space? Be imaginative! For example, at 3rd & Division, I’d love to see a five-story live-work building with apartments over retail. In the Heroes & Legends space, I think it would be cool to see a new tap house. Get creative with this one.

3. Tweet your photos and ideas with the hashtag #insteadofsprawl. This is the best part. Share with us and with the world what you’d like the site to become. We want to get #insteadofsprawl trending in the Spokane area, so send in your photos and share with your friends. As many vacant lots and ideas as you can. You should also email kitty@futurewise.org so that Kitty Klitzke, of Futurewise Spokane, can compile posts into a new blog, Spokane Instead of Sprawl.

We can do this. We can show the County Commissioners and the rest of Spokane that there is a future in infill. #insteadofsprawl, we could be building vibrant urban centers like South Perry, Garland, and Kendall Yards. We could be enhancing quality life instead of tearing it down. There are hundreds of vacant lots in Spokane that could be infilled. We urge readers of the #spokanerising Project to find them, tweet them, and share them. The best vacant lots and ideas will be featured on the blog and potentially elsewhere. This is about the future of Spokane as a livable, exciting city. Will you help us?