Spokane’s Urban Growth Area with its Centers and Corridors.
Last time we looked at Washington State’s Growth Management Act. This time we’ll be looking at some of the planning tools used to organize growth within Spokane.
Part Two: How does it work?
The GMA tailors planning requirements based on populations, growth rates and projected growth. The main tool used to make growth management work is the implementation of Comprehensive Plans.
The GMA mandates that counties and cities of a certain size and/or growth rate must create local Comprehensive Plans. Spokane County experienced a high rate of growth between 1989 and 1993, and the jurisdictions within the County were then required to prepare Comprehensive Plans. This includes the designation of Urban Growth Areas, and the creation of plans that include the following critical elements:
1. Land Use
3. Capital Facilities Plan
7. Economic Development
8. Park and Recreation
The GMA also mandated citizen participation in the creation of Comprehensive Plans; in Spokane, this led to the formation of the Spokane Horizons Group. During this community participation process, Spokane elected to add several additional elements such as Leadership, Governance and Citizenship, Social Health, and Neighborhoods to its Comprehensive Plan. These elements became sections in the document.
Urban Growth Area
Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) are located within Growth Management Boundaries. Outside of these boundaries, development may only happen if it is not urban in nature; typically, this is rural and resource land.
Some of the factors involved in determining the boundary are population projections, land capacity analysis, and the ability to provide public facilities and services to that area. Spokane’s initial Growth Management Boundary was drawn in the 1990s, based on these factors. Spokane’s Urban Growth Area includes all land within the city limits and also some land outside of Spokane’s City Limits; these areas are known as Joint Planning Areas (JPAs). The boundary is reviewed at least once every five years, taken into account growth that will occur over the following 20 years.
In the City of Spokane, the boundary must be reviewed at least once every five years. Spokane County is responsible for reviewing all of its Urban Growth Boundaries on a ten-year basis as follows:
1. 20-year forecast population for Spokane County is prepared, based on information from the State Office of Financial Management
2. Spokane County allocates the forecasted population in the following order:
a For metro cities (City of Spokane, Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights and Millwood)
b. For existing unincorporated UGA (JPA’s)
c. For urban reserves (which are outside the UGA but are intended to become a part of the UGA in future)
d. For rural areas
3. Land capacity of UGA is determined, based on land use allocations and current use
4. An Environmental review is undertaken, based on the state’s Environmental Policy Act
5. Revision to Comprehensive Plan is made if needed, or population allocation is modified
GMA-Related Dispute Resolution
In order to resolve disputes related to the GMA, three Growth Management Hearing Boards (GMHB’s) were created. These boards are specific to Western Washington, Eastern Washington and the Central Puget Sound, in order to reflect regional diversities.
The GMA mandates an amendment process for Comprehensive Plans. In Spokane, the Comprehensive Plan can only be amended once a year, maximum. This is intended to prevent uncoordinated changes to the Plan. Changes are based on monitored data as well as citizen comment. The process works as follows:
1. Public notice of amendment cycle
2. Workshops of public hearings scheduled by City Plan Commission
3. Plan Commission makes recommendations as resolutions
4. City council approval/denial
5. Appeals of City Council decisions can be made through the Superior Court
Land use allocations within the Spokane UGA
The Comprehensive Plan tells us that land use is driven by the Vision and Values generated during Spokane Horizons planning process. Towards achieving this, Spokane identifies several planning tools to organize growth:
• Neighborhoods are considered to be a basic planning unit in Spokane. Spokane Horizons identified values associated with neighborhoods, including the enhancement and preservation of inner-city and older neighborhoods.
• Centers and Corridors is a land use strategy that aims to focus growth efficiently. Greater densities as well as mixed-use buildings are allowed in specified areas, as designated on the City’s Land Use Plan.
“The centers and corridors designated on the land use plan map are the areas of the city where incentives and other tools should be used to encourage infill development, redevelopment and new development.”
– Spokane Comprehensive Plan, LU 3.1 p. 16
Targeting growth through the designated centers and corridors is based on several factors, including but not limited to availability of infrastructure, existing and proposed conditions, accessibility of transit and level of capacity for public amenities. Some of Spokane’s Centers and Corridors include the South Perry Neighborhood Center, and the North Monroe Business Corridor.
Land Use designations also reflect existing uses; when the current (2001) Comprehensive Plan was written, some existing land uses were reevaluated to recognize the actual intensity of development. The reasoning behind this was to avoid creating large areas of nonconformance.
The next and final part in this series will look at the historic and ongoing debate surrounding Growth Management, both within Spokane and beyond.
For a printable version of this paper, click here.