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?

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.