City of Airway Heights issues statement on STEP decision - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

City of Airway Heights issues statement on STEP decision

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Members of the Spokane Tribe address the media Wednesday. Members of the Spokane Tribe address the media Wednesday.
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -

Following Gov. Jay Inslee's announcement approving the decision to grant the Spokane Tribe of Indians the authority to build and operate a gaming facility in Airway Heights, the City of Airway Heights issued a statement about the decision.

Read the city's full statement below:

After a very thoughtful, thorough and comprehensive analysis of the Spokane Tribe Economic Project (STEP) that spanned more than ten years, Washington State joined the federal government and announced today its approval of the STEP to build a casino on tribal lands inside the City of Airway Heights. The approval by both Washington State’s Governor Jay Inslee and United States Department of Interior (DOI) follows an application for gaming made by the Spokane Tribe on February 24, 2006.

The Spokane Tribe proposed making the property on tribal lands eligible for gaming to create economic development for the Tribe and Greater Spokane area. The two-part determination, which is required for gaming to occur on the property, initially started with the DOI. In arriving at its decision, the DOI considered a range of development options for the property before determining it is in the best interest of the Spokane Tribe and surrounding communities to approve the project. Similarly, Governor Jay Inslee also conducted a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of the project before concurring with the DOI and authorizing the project to move forward.

“Opponents of the project have circulated many reasons why the Spokane Tribe should not be given the same right to develop their casino project. So far, none of these reasons have been substantiated,” said Albert Tripp, Chief Executive Officer of the City of Airway Heights. “The Spokane Tribe has complied with every requirement and provided mitigation for every concern.”

Leading the reasons cited for not approving the project was a possible encroachment concern to Fairchild Air Force Base. According to Kevin Washburn’s letter of determination concluding the Department of Interior’s evaluation of the project, the U.S. Air Force “did not submit comments opposing the project.” More to the point, however, is that, the Spokane Tribe and U.S. Air Force worked collaboratively together to put in place “procedures to mitigate any potential encroachment and to ensure that the base will operate undisturbed,” according to Washburn.

Another objection circulated by opponents was that the project did not comply with land use standards adopted to protect Fairchild. The project does, in fact, comply with both local and state land use standards, and the Spokane Tribe was at the table with the City of Airway Heights and Fairchild in developing these standards that were ultimately adopted to protect the Base. The City of Airway Heights has some of the most restrictive land use standards because of its proximity to Fairchild. The City supports these regulations and has adopted the regulations to protect the current and future missions of the Base. Both DOI and Washington State evaluated the project under these regulations and found the project meets critical land use regulations that ensure protection for Fairchild.

“The City has always taken its fiduciary responsibility to its citizens and role within the region very seriously. Holding such proposals up to the scrutiny of these responsibilities must not only be in the best interest of the City, but meet obligations to the State, County and Federal requirements of Fairchild Air Force Base as well,” said Tripp.  As such, Airway Heights is bound by these requirements to meet its obligations under the State’s Growth Management Act, which requires cities to meet employment and residential targets assigned by the State to cities and counties. Airway Heights contends that the STEP project helps meet these obligations and also provide diversification of the City’s tax, retail and residential housing base.

With the long and protracted process behind them, and the Governor’s decision for approval made, the City of Airway Heights welcomes the opportunity to join with all stakeholders to begin the task of working together for the economic success of the region. “I’m certain there is a constructive path forward for all parties of interest,” said Tripp.

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