Spokane Imposes Temporary Ban on New Subdivision Housing Due to Wildfire Risk

Citing inadequate fire protection and public safety resources, the Spokane City Council has temporarily halted subdivision development in the wildland-urban interface of Latah Valley.

2 minute read

May 22, 2024, 11:00 AM PDT

By Mary Hammon @marykhammon

Empty subdivision lots with new roads and sidewalks complete and line of evergreen forest in the immediate background under a bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds..

Empty lots in a new subdivision development in Spokane, Washington, await the start of contruction. | Kirk Fisher / Adobe Stock

An article in NonStopLocal, the Spokane City Council passed a moratorium on the development of new subdivision housing in Latah Valley, which abuts wildland on the city’s southwestern edge. According to reporter Faith Iverson, “The Spokane City Council discussed the increased residential development specifically in the Grandview Thorpe neighborhood comparing it to the ratio of fire protection and public safety resources in the area.” The ban prohibits the city from accepting, processing, reviewing, or approving new applications for preliminary short subdivisions or preliminary subdivisions for housing in the banned zone.

This is not the first time a temporary ban has been levied on the Latah Valley neighborhood. Last year, the Inlander reported the Spokane City Council approved a six-month moratorium on development in the area in September 2022 to work on updating fees related to infrastructure costs for new developments. That ban was primarily driven by transportation infrastructure concerns. But after last summer’s wildfires burned down two homes and prompted evacuation notices in July and again in August, citizen groups began calling for a moratorium on development until the city funded the creation of a better wildfire emergency plan and a permanent fire station for the area.

Balancing risk with the need to build more housing, which often pushes development into the wildland-urban interface, will be an ongoing challenge for states and cities as the frequency and severity of wildfires grow. According to research published in the Source NM last year, close to 600,000 people in the United States were directly exposed to wildfires within 3 miles of their homes in the last two decades, 80 percent of those in western states and 70 percent in California. This growing risk has led multiple insurers to stop selling policies in high-risk states.

Monday, May 20, 2024 in NonStop Local

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