Council to Vote on Deferral of Ordinance Siting City Facilities to 8/1/22

Lisa Gardner, City Council Communications Director, 509.625.6226

Thursday, July 21, 2022 at 8:42 a.m.

During Monday’s Briefing Session, Council will likely vote to defer Emergency Ordinance C36239, which would determine the process and criteria for siting essential City facilities. Council seeks to amend language in the ordinance that defines processes and protocols for utility facilities, which necessitates a two-week deferral. 

“The City Utilities Division has requested that Council consider language changes that will better support the siting of utility facilities and Council will spend the next two weeks fine-tuning that language,” said Council President Breean Beggs.

Council will vote during today’s 3:30 p.m. Briefing Session as to whether the ordinance will be deferred to August 1, 2022.

The ordinance currently seeks to codify public process and criteria for siting essential City facilities, currently defined as police precincts or offices, fire stations, utility facilities, community centers, and libraries.  The ordinance focuses on the process and public engagement rather than the substantive criteria for the final decisions. 

The original ordinance stems from the Council’s multiple requests for community participation and transparency of public facilities.  Examples of this include the water tower at Hamblen Elementary in the Southgate neighborhood, the stormwater treatment facility near Gonzaga University and, most recently, the placement of a Spokane Police Precinct in the former East Central Library building.  Community members have expressed concern that the City has taken unilateral steps to locate or relocate essential city facilities without sufficient public input, which can erode the public trust, degrade the effectiveness of local government, and engender suspicion. 

“Council’s action to defer will provide an opportunity to hear from our utility department and learn more about siting utility facilities,” said Council Member Betsy Wilkerson, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Council President Beggs.  “This deferment also allows for more community engagement regarding the appropriate location for a police precinct in East Central. East Central has over 4,400 households, including a large community of unhoused individuals to consider; therefore, a thorough community process is needed. I will continue to work toward the good of East Central and its residents.”

In the ordinance, the City Council is proposing that for all new and existing essential City facilities, the responsible department shall provide to the City Council, no later than 180 days after the effective date of this section, a summary of all City facilities which do not meet the requirements of this ordinance.  Council will work with utilities department to amend the language and bring it forward for a vote during the August 1, 2022, Legislative Session.