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Planning FAQs


What is a Comprehensive Plan?
Comprehensive Plan is a 20-year visioning document for the city and it identifies the long range plan for growth and how the city will accomodate it. The plan is a set of goals, policies, maps, illustrations, and implementation strategies that state how the community should grow physically, socially and economically. 

What is zoning?
The zoning code is the bread and butter of the planning department. It determines how people may use their land including what use is allowed in each zone,  height limits, property line setbacks, density, etc. These development regulations are intended to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of the residents of Airway heights by encouraging orderly growth, promoting and coordinating compatible land use, and conserving amenities.  In coordination with the building department and their regulations, the zoning code governs developments in the city. The planning department first looks at the zoning matrix then the zoning code and finally the specific sections within the zoning code.

What is my property zoned?
The zoning map shows the city limits and how each property is zoned (commercial, residential, industrial, mining, tribal, public, recreation and open space). The zoning determines how the land may be used and any restrictions on that use based on the zone. For example, to protect city residents, only certain uses are allowed in residential zones. Additionally, requirements in the zoning code call for landscaping to buffer noise from industry to nearby residential zones.

What are the parking requirements for my project?
The parking section of the zoning code calls for parking based on the use of a project. For example, a single-family home requires two parking spaces, while an espresso stand that takes mainly drive through traffic requires 3 spaces. A restaurant needs a minimum of 6 spaces, and many uses depend on the building square footage.

What are the landscaping requirements for my project?
The city's landscaping requirements are in place to provide visual barriers, mitigate air and noise pollution, reduce erosion and regulate vehicle circulation. There are requirements for breaking up an expanse of parking based on the number of spaces, providing a buffer between the project and the street and additional landscaping screening requirements for those near residential or commercial zones.

What is the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) environmental assessment?
SEPA is a checklist regulated by the state Department of Ecology and is a way to look at all environmental effects including those to the soil, air, wildlife as well as noise concerns. The applicants submit the SEPA checklist, the city makes a determination on whether there is no environmental impact (determination of non-significance) or whether things should be required to mitigate environmental impacts (mitigated determination of non-significance).

How do I get copies of the zoning code and Comprehensive Plan?
Copies of all Airway Heights land use codes are available online, or may be obtained by contacting the community development department at 244-5429.

How are subdivisions regulated?
Subdivisions are regulated through the subdivision code which has specific requirements for each phase - preliminary and final as well as requirements based on the number of lots. The subdivision code requires improvements to the site to prepare for development. A separate application goes through the planning department for subdivisions.

I'm thinking of purchasing land in the city for my project, or subdividing my property but don't have a clear idea or know if its feasible. How can I find out?
Call the city planning department to see if your proposed use is allowed in the zone. We will look at the zoning matrix and the zoning map to determine whether the use is permitted. You can schedule an pre-application meeting with the planning department to discuss your project and application processes, or you can attend a technical review committee meeting where all departments will tell you their requirements for your project.

What is this Determination of Non Significance or Mitigated Determination of Non Significance that I read about in the mailing I received?
The notice is a requirement of the State Environmental Policy Act (also known as SEPA, pronounced sea-pah). SEPA is an environmental impact process, set up to determine the impact of various projects and providing decision makers opportunity to approve a project or not.

When a new development, ordinance or plan is proposed, state law requires the city to review it for potential impacts to the environment, housing and public facilities. The City Planner reviews and approves the proposal, and the City Manager signs off on it. The City Planner makes the following possible determinations:

1. The proposal will probably not have a significant impact on the environment. "Determination of Non Significance (DNS)" is issued and the proposal may proceed with determining necessary permits.

2. The proposal will probably have a significant impact on the environment that may be reasonably reduced by the proponent so that it is no longer significant. In this "Mitigated Determination of Non Significance (MDNS)" is issued which places recommendations on the applicant to reduce the impact.

When deciding what to require of a developer in an MDNS, the SEPA official must ensure it is proportionate to the impact caused by the project. In other words, the developer cannot be required to mitigate pre-existing problems or to provide facilities to serve future developments.

3. The proposal will probably have a significant impact on the environment that can be reasonably reduced by the proponent. In this case a "Determination of Significance (DS)" is issued. If a DS is issued, the proponent is required to prepare a detailed environmental statement (EIS) that identifies and quantifies potential environmental impacts.

How do I get involved and find out about planning department projects and those that affect the city?
Keep informed - check often with the city's website, read the legals in the paper for upcoming meetings, read the newsletters the city provides on its project and happenings throughout the city and attend our open houses on issues that may affect you. The planning commission meets the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m., the city council meets the first and third Monday at 6 p.m.

What are the setbacks and height restrictions for building on my lot?
All buildings in the city must be less than 35 feet. In residential and commercial  zones, the setbacks are 25 in front, 10 in the rear and 5 on each side, unless a corner lot that must meet the clear view triangle requirement. On industrial lots, the front yard must be 35 feet , 15 feet in the rear, 5 feet per story on the side and 25 feet from the property line at the corner.

How long does it take to process a general land use application?
It depends on the project and the amount of information provided at each submittal. By law, staff has 120 days to process land use approvals. In reality, those applications heard by the planning commission normally take at least a month, while some require more public notice time such as 60 days. Certificate of Exemption applications are usually processed within a week, while the county departments may take longer to process.

Why does it take so long to review?
It will take a few days to determine whether a project is complete, and if not, if more information is needed, and it may take a few more days to determine completeness after the application is received. For most projects there is a 2 week public notice period before a SEPA determination can be made. If a public hearing is required on a project such as a subdivision, there is another 5 day appeal period before the public hearing can take place, and for most projects the state Community, Trade and Economic Development has 60 days to review the project. Before the planning commission and city council meetings, public noticing requirements including publishing a legal in the paper of record is required.

Do I need a permit to put up a fence and can I put barbed wire in the residential zone?
A permit is required on a fence and no barbed wire is allowed on fences in the residential zone.

What is this AICUZ and how does it affect me?
The city follows regulations for Air Installation Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) from Fairchild Air Force Base, and Airport Overlay Zones (AOZ) from Spokane International Airport. AICUZ and AOZ are the accident potential zones, and most residential uses are not allowed in the zone. There are also noise zones and restrictions associated with those. Please see the overlay zone map.

Can I change the zoning on my lot?
It depends. You are welcome to apply for a rezone and these are processed yearly by the city council. The city does not encourage "spot zoning" which is one zone like a spot within an overall zone, and the city does not change zoning just for a project.

Can I put a home/apartment or duplex in industrial or commercial zones?
No, unless it is custodial quarters for a business or is an existing non-conforming use in that zone. Call the planning department for more information.

When does issuing a building permit come into the process of a new subdivision?
By the time building permits are issued, the project has already gone through extensive review and final plat approval, and this always involved public process.

I don't support growth and like our small town feel - why are all these subdivisions being approved?
Irrelevant of supporting or not supporting growth, elected officials are required to follow state laws, city codes and city plans in making their determinations. If a project fits within the laws, codes and plans of a city, the council must approve it, and the city is required to accommodate projected growth for the city into the future.

I don't like the determinations made from the zoning code or zoning map - who can I appeal to?
Anyone may make an appeal of an administrative decision by staff - there may be another way of determining a use for a property or project. If the answer is clear, the council will look at the city codes in place and a project's impact on the overall city in making their determinations.

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