#insteadofsprawl

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?

What the Google Fiber expansion means for Spokane

Google is expanding its fiber-optic business to as many as thirty new cities in nine metropolitan areas as it readies a nationwide push for faster data speeds. (PHOTO: Google)

We wrote a couple weeks ago that building an expansive fiber-optic network should be one of City Hall’s top priorities. With the recent announcement that Google Fiber is expanding to new cities, we have a clearer picture of how Spokane might be able to get in on the action. Most importantly, Google describes its planning process for Fiber as one with two parts. First, cities complete what the company calls a “fiber-ready” checklist. Then a detailed city study begins. Spokane can get a head start on other cities that will inevitably be competing for fiber in the future by completing a checklist now.

 

Spokane can procure the necessary maps of existing utility poles, gas, power, and water lines. It can provide a clearer picture of the existing fiber services and dark fiber that are lying dormant underneath the city. It can streamline the permitting and approvals process for fiber-optic lines regardless of whether or not Google comes knocking sometime down the road. These moves would be beneficial for any potential actor to get in on the fiber action. It doesn’t have to be Google. In fact, numerous companies operate fiber optic networks within the city already, albeit on a primarily commercial customer basis. By making this information more readily available and making it easier to get a permit for work on internet infrastructure, Spokane could jumpstart a potential fiber expansion.

What are your thoughts? Can the dark fiber be lit? Would Spokane be better served by a municipal internet utility that works like its existing water and garbage services? What’s next for Spokane? Share your comments below, on Twitter, on Facebook, and around the web. We love to hear from you.

Good News: Egnyte opens Spokane-area office

Egnyte is a cloud data services firm offering their product primarily to business customers, including such conglomerates as Home Depot and Ikea.

A Silicon Valley cloud computing and data services firm with $30 million in VC funding has opened a Spokane-area office. In a significant expansion, one of only two United States locations outside of Mountain View where Egnyte has chosen to locate an office (they have offices in the U.K. and Poland). And while the location unfortunately is not in the central business district (it’s at the Pring Center at 15404 E. Springfield in Spokane Valley), it still represents a move in the right direction in terms of attracting technology firms and engineers in order to solve our current deficit of young urban professionals. Hopefully this expansion starts a trend of tech companies forgoing growth in expensive areas like Seattle and Denver in favor of smaller cities like Spokane that offer arguably more value.

If you happen to be seeking a job and are involved in sales, Egnyte is currently hiring for this new Spokane Valley office. Two positions, a Salesforce.com Developer/Admin and an Account Manager, are open, and you can apply online.

Which other technology firms would you like to see open offices in the Spokane area?

Legislature Considers an End to Development Vesting

PHOTO: The Inlander

The Washington State Legislature is currently considering a proposal to end the vesting of developments started during formal appeals of Urban Growth Area expansions. The proposed laws, H.B. 2234 and H.B. 2245, would prevent the types of situations which occurred in 2013 when the Spokane County Commissioners expanded the Urban Growth Area against the objections of numerous community leaders, state and local governments, and neighborhood groups.

Currently, under the state’s Growth Management Act, developers can “vest” projects under the existing rules, even when an appeal is being heard by the Hearings Board. That means that if the County Commission approves an Urban Growth Area expansion, and that decision is appealed to the state, the County must still accept the permits and applications submitted during the gap between the application and appeals hearing. In other words, developers would not be able to use this “back door” method to getting their projects completed, and would be on hold until the appeal is resolved.

The appeal of the 2013 Spokane UGA expansion brought together concerned citizens, community groups like Southgate and Five Mile, and organizations like the Center for Justice. In the end, the appeal won, but 640 lots still made it into the UGA due to vesting. These bills would change that.

We urge you to write to your representatives in support of these bills.

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