The Latah Valley has been a largely forgotten region of the City of Spokane when it comes to development. Bounded by High Bridge Park to the north, Hatch Road to the south, the Bluff to the east, and ponderosa pine forests to the west, the numerous developments that have emerged over the last few decades had been nearly undetectable. A shift occurred when the Eagle Ridge and Qualchan Hills developments were built. In anticipation of more development down the road, plans were drafted and approved to add the infrastructure required to support this influx to the Latah Valley, but the improvements were never completed. A series of fatal accidents along US 195 over the last 15 years highlighted the impact of the missing infrastructure promised years before. Traffic deaths at the Cheney-Spokane Road, US-195 and Thorpe Rd, put neighborhood advocates on high alert. The Latah-Hangman Neighborhood Council produced a comprehensive neighborhood plan charting the course of this region, balancing development with preserving farmland, wildlife corridors, and heritage sites. This thoughtful plan laid out various kinds of development that would work within this geographically challenged area hoping to avoid irreversibly changing the landscape. In addition, the Washington Department of Transportation generated a report telegraphing the critical need for road infrastructure along US-195, I-90, and city roads.
Despite tragedy, visioning, and planning, proper infrastructure was never put in place and we now find that the Latah Valley is operating in an overstressed environment on the cusp of more tragedy. The current roads cannot handle traffic loads safely which affects other services like fire and police protection. Response times are increased by the congestion of traffic and limited by low bridges and tunnels. One small fire house with one pumper truck is located in the Latah Valley, for bigger responses, fire protection comes from downtown. There are no schools in the Latah Valley, children are bussed using this unsafe corridor. There is no public transportation, public libraries or community centers and no safe walking/biking route connecting to the city. The lack of critical infrastructure to handle safe transportation is now stressing other infrastructure. More than 2000 homes are in the permitting process with the city. In the next 5-10 years, the Latah Valley will see more than 4,000 new homes built without the planning or funding set aside to address these critical shortfalls. Developments are moving through the permitting process rapidly without considering the interconnections of these developments and their impact. With no adopted neighborhood plans, robust comprehensive plan for the Latah Valley, or sub-area plan, development is happening piecemeal, with only utility related infrastructure considered. Impact fees are minimal or non-existent placing the burden of infrastructure on the taxpayer and the city. There is no serious consideration for the preservation of sustainable available agricultural land or wildlife corridors or the preservation of water quality and quantity for both humans and wildlife.
The most current US-195 corridor study for the Latah Valley carries a price tag of $100 million to address “temporary” fixes to the interface of City of Spokane roadways to US-195. To date the only funding pledged/secured is $300,000 for a study on reconnecting Inland Empire Way with US-195. Funding for parks, fire protection, police protection, schools, public transportation, and library services, to name a few essential services, all lack sufficient budgets for current needs in many cases and most definitely for future needs. Taking all this into careful consideration we, the undersigned, support the adoption of a moratorium on major development in the Latah Valley until the following can be adequately addressed: ● Planning: Better assessment of the attributes, characteristics, needs, and potential for the Latah Valley in the future ● Funding: Securing, identifying, and/or forecasting funding for infrastructure needs in the Latah Valley. This should include the adoption of impact fees for fire, parks, schools, traffic, etc. applicable to new development ● Infrastructure: Determining and then completing the construction of baseline infrastructure improvements ● Development approval process: Review and adopt changes to the development approval process that address the lack of infrastructure in the Latah Valley. Preserve unique characteristic of the area, parkland and other land related to needed infrastructure and regulate the pace and breadth of development
In the last two years, we have seen a tremendous influx of people from outside of the area, attracted to Spokane for its beauty, community, and affordability, having left places that are unaffordable, unattractive, and ultimately untenable for the very issues facing the Latah Valley today. There is a real opportunity here for Spokane to merge conservation, preservation, and innovation to protect these very characteristics that make the Latah Valley and Spokane so unique.