Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, January 19, 2007

"Corridor: Development is important to county"

Another bang up editorial from Gordon Forgey in yesterday's Whitman County Gazette:
Moscow, Idaho, has a new no growth policy.

In the past, Moscow has wildly encouraged the expansion of its retail and commercial base. Now, it is against such growth.

Not only that, it is even trying to impose its new vision on Whitman County.

The issue has come up because a developer, Hawkins Companies, has plans for building a retail complex on the Pullman/Moscow corridor on Highway 270 on the Whitman County side of the border.

The same area is attracting interest from a variety of other businesses. One of them is James Toyota, currently located in Moscow.

Moscow, at least publicly, is up in arms over the possible desecration of its beloved Palouse.

This is the new Moscow. The old Moscow is readily visible. In fact, the only thing that has saved the entrance into Moscow on highway 270 from being like Division Street in Spokane or 21st Street in Lewiston is the fact that just one side of the highway was available for commercial use.

Moscow’s new attitude is easy to understand. Officials and residents have had enough of their past excesses, including commercial sprawl and environmental pollution.

Still, that is no reason to try to squelch the plans of others. Washington has higher development standards than Idaho. Whitman County is almost fanatical when it comes to land use. Those plans being criticized by Moscow are well above the standards of even the most recent developments in Moscow itself.

Executed properly, development of the corridor will be good for the area and good for the county. From the Hawkins development alone, the county could benefit by millions of dollars in new taxes. Other development there could additionally help every resident in the county.

The development in the corridor is not some ethereal, distant thing. It reflects a good use for under utilized land that will help to make the county more self sustaining. It will mean new taxes, new commercial activity and new employment opportunities. These, in the long run, will benefit even the farthest reaches of Whitman County.

Whitman County should try to be a good neighbor to Moscow, but Moscow’s new sensitivities are especially hard to accommodate. On the one hand, there are Moscow’s publicly uttered concerns. On the other, there are the private, unspoken concerns of losing businesses and revenue.

Moscow wants it both ways now that its development and growth are complete.

Whitman County’s growth is not complete.
The county needs to encourage commercial development within the limits of intelligent, sensitive land use. The proposed developments on SR 270 meet a very high standard and that should be enough – even for Moscow.

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