County Says Prop One Would Protect Fairchild
By Steve Jackson
Spokane County leaders say a property tax proposed on this year's ballot will help preserve Fairchild Air Force base. Fairchild's future is important to Spokane County because of the base's economic influence on the community. Fairchild's estimated contribution to the Spokane County economy is as high as $1.3 billion a year.
While the base has been a fixture for decades, lurking in the background is the threat of base closure, prompted by federal budget concerns. In an effort to make sure the federal government doesn't consider closure, Spokane County commissioners proposed Proposition One, an effort to reduce encroachment of development near the base.
The idea is to move a number of mobile home developments away from what is called an “Accident Prevention Zone” or APZ. Commissioner Todd Mielke explains the scope of what needs to be moved.
Mielke: “It’s a cluster of mobile home parks that usually consist of pretty old homes, single wides dating back to the mid 70’s. There are a total of 7 parks, and 188 units in the APZ 2 area.”
The special levy and property tax would assess 6.5 cents per 1,000 dollars of a home's value. That would translate to a yearly fee of $6.50 for a $100,000 home. The levy would be in place for a maximum of nine years, depending on the actual cost of how much it would take to move the trailer courts and find the residents homes in other locations.
Mielke says the county is working with Catholic Charities and SNAP to do the move, or compensate those who own their own trailers.
Mielke: “They buy people out. If they are a renter they will connect them with a rental property and compensate for their moving expenses. If they have an ownership stake, they need to be compensated, whatever that looks like.”
Mielke says feedback from residents in the trailer parks has been positive. But Center for Justice attorney Rick Eichstadt questions the project. Although he says he is not opposed to the concept, he has some reservations.
Eichstadt: “What assurances do we have that the county is not going to act on other properties in a manner that threatens Fairchild. I mean it’s pretty significant that the governor stepped in to challenge the county’s Urban Growth Expansion largely to protect impacts to Fairchild.”
Governor Jay Inslee's office sent a letter to the county commissioners in September outlining concerns over adding areas to the Urban Growth areas on the West Plains.
The Spokane City Council has approved a resolution endorsing the County’s proposition One. Fairchild Air force base officials seem supportive of the concept. A letter sent out by the base commander earlier this month cited efforts by local officials to reduce encroachment around the base, and specifically mentioned concerns with the development in Accident Potential Zone number 2.
Air Force officials are prohibited from endorsing any political measures or issues.