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?

TONIGHT: Summit for Neighborhood Fairness, Part II

The South Perry District is frequently cited as one of the “most livable” or “best” or “coolest” neighborhoods in Spokane. Will future development follow the pattern of South Perry or Garland, or degrade into surface parking and big-box stores? (PHOTO: Spokesman-Review)

Tonight, join community leaders, elected officials, and smart growth advocates at Part Two of the Summit for Neighborhood Fairness. Futurewise Spokane will convene a diverse group of representatives and stakeholders for the second of two public fora on empowering our neighborhoods and prioritizing denser infill development in accordance with existing planning documents. As you’ll recall, the dialogue over smart growth and land use reached a fever pitch last month when it was discovered that Scott Chesney and the Planning Department had approved a building permit for a drive-through-only McDonald’s restaurant on north Hamilton, and that Dave Black had violated Centers and Corridors zoning and the 2009 Developers’ Agreement at his Target development on the South Hill.

Part One of this summit focused on possible policy proposals, while Part Two will focus on choosing the best solutions and crafting a plan toward implementation. It’s clear that land use policy and neighborhood development has quickly become the number one issue in Spokane’s political system. It should be interesting to see where this planning and policy proposal process leads.

  • Join us at the Summit for Neighborhood Fairness, tonight from 5:30p – 7:30p at the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. Neighborhood representatives, community leaders, activists, legal experts, and other stakeholders will all be represented.

This Week in Public Meetings: 4/24 – 5/2

At the former U.S. Pavilion, the Parks Board is discussing recovering the structure with a movable dome that could feature revolving light displays or projections. (PHOTO: Spokane Riverfront Park on Facebook)
At the former U.S. Pavilion, the Parks Board is discussing recovering the structure with a movable dome that could feature revolving light displays or projections. (PHOTO: Spokane Riverfront Park on Facebook)

Okay, kinda-sorta a week. A lot of major issues are up for discussion in the coming days, and we urge readers of The #spokanerising Project to make a strong showing in support of our parks, our neighborhoods, and our communities.

Special Parks Board Meeting: Riverfront Park Master Plan. We’ve written extensively in the past about plans for Riverfront Park. Tonight, Thursday, April 24, the Parks Board will be hosting the second public comment period on the Riverfront Park Master Plan. Public testimony will be taken from 6-8pm in the City Council chambers. Free parking is available for participants in the Riverfront Park lots.

Summit for Neighborhood Fairness: Part II (The Strategy). Futurewise Spokane is collaborating with Spokane City Councilmembers, community groups, and neighborhoods to host a forum on possible policy changes that could result in more livable communities and environments. Participants will prioritize proposals and develop a clear strategy for their implementation. This will take place Wednesday, April 30 from 5:30p-7:30p at the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. More information is available here.

Proposed Land Use Action: A Workshop for Neighborhoods. Futurewise Spokane will be working with neighborhood groups and its Director of Planning and Law, Tim Trohimovich to enlighten neighborhoods on strategies for land use proposals. Tim will be speaking about navigating the land use process, SEPA, and permitting processes. This will take place Thursday, May 1 at 2:30p at the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. More information is available here.

These meetings are important for developing a strategy for Spokane’s future development and planning. We encourage readers to attend and offer a vision of a vibrant, denser, more livable Spokane where people love to live.