Please donate to support publication of the
Inland FoodWise Online Journal


Comment Today: Oppose Wells and Septic Tanks for New Developments in Spokane's Urban Growth Area

Chrys Ostrander

The Spokane County Planning Commission is continuing to take public comment and testimony on a proposed amendment to the Spokane County Comprehensive Plan. 

The County is seeking to adopt an amendment to the County's Comprehensive Plan that would allow "the use of on-site water and/or sewer systems within urban growth areas in limited circumstances where there is no negative effect on basic public health, safety, and the environment; and the use of on-site sewage disposal systems [would] not preclude development at urban densities."

Spokane City and County Residents should oppose this amendment. If adopted, new development in the Urban Growth Area will accelerate and the threat to the aquifer from depletion and pollution will increase.

Written comments on this proposed amendment must be submitted by 4:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 17, 2021. Questions or comments may be directed to Saegen Neiman at 509-477-7223, or The Spokane County Planning Commission voted to continue the Public Hearing, leaving the record open for additional public comment, to a date certain of November 18, 2021 at 9 A.M.

You might find the following useful when composing your own written comment. Be quick! Deadline tomorrow at 4pm. Or, testify at the hearing.

Currently, urban-density developments in the urban growth area are required to be served by municipal water and sewer systems.

The proposed amendment, however, is vaguely worded provides no real limitation to the "limited circumstances" under which on-site sewer and water would be allowed. Developers would even be able to drill wells and construct on-site septic systems first and then promise to connect to municipal utilities later on. Not only that, but developers would be able to claim that connecting to municipal services is too expensive allowing them go ahead and drill more wells and bury more septic tanks.

According to Tim Trohimovich, Director of Planning and Law for Futurewise, a statewide advocacy organization that focuses on land use policy, "allowing the use of onsite wells and septic systems does not permit urban densities violating state law."

Trohimovich wrote a comment to the County in which he urged the Planning Commission to recommend denial of proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment 21-CPA-04 and proposed Development Regulation Amendment 21-ARP-02 "the highest density allowed using the lot size table in the state regulations for onsite sewage treatment systems is 12,500 square feet or 3.5 dwelling units per acre. Higher minimum lot sizes and lower densities can be required depending on the soil type. If onsite wells are also used, the allowed densities are even lower for most soils. These densities are not urban densities. Densities of seven dwelling units per acre is required to support transit, which is one of the key urban services and a hallmark of urban growth and urban densities."

The first session of this public hearing last month raised a lot of questions so the hearing has been continued to the next meeting of the Planning Commission on Nov. 18 at 9am.

Here's the link to the hearing's web page:

The Futurewise comment:

Click the link below to join the Zoom Public Hearing at 9am on Nov. 18: 

Or One tap mobile : 
US: +12532158782,,89695054210#  or +13462487799,,89695054210# 

Or Telephone: 
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): 
US: +1 253 215 8782  or +1 346 248 7799  or +1 669 900 6833  or +1 929 436 2866  or +1 301 715 8592  or +1 312 626 6799 

Webinar ID: 896 9505 4210 

Planning Commission Clerk, at 509.477.3675


Update: 12:05pm Nov. 16 - Saegen Neiman has responded to comments on behalf of the Spokane County Planning Commission. He said he is adding comments to the file, but he said "the county has formally withdrawn the proposal ... These items will not be heard at the upcoming planning commission meeting." A "Withdrawal Memo" related to the issue states "more robust community input and advice would be beneficial prior to planning commission consideration of this matter." It is good they are still seeking input from the public.

It seems very strange, however, for the continuance of a public hearing to be cancelled, regardless of the withdrawal of the proposal in the intervening weeks. The public was assured there was to be a continuance and so the public should not have that opportunity thwarted in this manner. The County has an obligation to complete the public hearing on this amendment at 9am on Nov. 18.

November, 2021