Spokane City Council majority calls mayoral veto costly for the citizens of Spokane

Jon Snyder, 509.625.6254

Monday, March 31, 2014 at 6:12 p.m.

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilmembers Jon Snyder, Amber Waldref, and Candace Mumm stood with neighborhood leaders and local non-profit organizations today in support of sensible planning and public utility policy for the City of Spokane.

The Council passed an Ordinance Relating to Sewer and Water Service outside the City Limits on a vote of 4-2 on March 17, 2014. The ordinance closed a loophole that allowed county developers to demand City utility service as urban development even though the Growth Management Hearings Board have found these projects to be located in illegal expansions of the Urban Growth Area (UGA). The County Commissioners have created these expansions of the UGA, often against the advice of the City and County Planning Commissions, the Mayor, Spokane City Councilmembers, and local non-profit organizations such as the Lands Council, the Center for Justice, Futurewise, and the Spokane Riverkeeper. The County Commissioners overruled their own planning commission with last year's massive 4000 acre expansion of the UGA. Planning staff analysis contained in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement documented a cost of $64 million dollars in additional capital costs attributable to this expansion of the UGA.

All this was done, Councilmembers assert, with the unfortunate outcome of prioritizing these new development projects over infrastructure needs for current water and sewer customers.

“The City of Spokane has been attempting to do joint planning with the County for years,” says Council President Ben Stuckart, “Poorly planned expansion of the UGA costs the residents of the City and the County untold millions of dollars in service extension and maintenance liability. At some point we need to say 'enough is enough.'”

“The Commissioners have essentially created a shadow city of urban growth around the City of Spokane,” says Councilmember Jon Snyder. “Each time they expand the UGA it acts as stealth tax increase for our citizens. With his veto, is the Mayor representing the County Commissioners interests or the interests of the citizens of Spokane?”

“I participated in review of the UGA expansion and I was alarmed at the amount of land that the Commissioners added over all objections,” says Councilmember Amber Waldref. “Planning staff analysis revealed we already have residential capacity within the existing urban growth boundary for 117,800 more people. Adding additional residential capacity unnecessarily adds to the cost of providing services.”

“As former chair of the City Planning Commission, I am concerned that these areas are not in our adopted growth plans and will drive our sewer and water bills higher,” says Councilmember Candace Mumm. “We aren't denying anyone utility service, we are just making sure that we can afford the cost and that these developments are being built in areas the City can affordably serve.”