Located in Spokane County, near the cities of Airway Heights, Medical Lake, and Spokane in eastern Washington, the 5,923-acre Fairchild Air Force Base (AFB) accomplishes its air refueling mission by flying the KC-135R, with planned conversion to a new aircraft platform. The base also is home to the Air Force Survival School and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. Known as the “tanker hub of the Northwest,” Fairchild and the 92nd Air Refueling Wing support U.S. and allied forces around the world, including special airlift missions, combat operations, and humanitarian relief missions. The largest employer in Spokane County, Fairchild AFB has a total estimated economic impact of more than $420 million (fiscal year 2007).
Joint Land Use Study Planning Process
Fairchild AFB and its community partners completed a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) in 1993. As a result of the first JLUS, Spokane County included policies to protect Fairchild in its comprehensive plan, and the city of Airway Heights completed its first comprehensive plan. However, compatibility challenges remained, including proposed mining activities near the Clear Zone and Accident Potential Zones (APZs), as well as residential development in high noise areas and APZs as an unintended consequence of a Spokane County zoning ordinance change allowing residential development in light industrial areas.
The Air Force again nominated Fairchild AFB as a candidate for a JLUS in fiscal year 2006. The 2007 Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ) study reflected much smaller noise contours than those used in the 1993 JLUS and a previous AICUZ completed in 1995 AICUZ, due in part to increased deployment operations tempo supporting wartime mission and homeland security requirements. With Spokane County as the JLUS sponsor, to preserve future mission flexibility, the Joint Policy Steering Committee modeled noise contours for four future mission scenarios reflecting replacement of the KC-135 with next generation tanker aircraft and including a potential bomber aircraft mission. The Joint Policy Steering Committee selected the “worst case” scenario noise contours for JLUS planning purposes.
Completed in September 2009, the JLUS included 57 recommendations across 17 categories, ranging from the establishment of Military Influence Areas and communication/coordination strategies to zoning and subdivision modifications. The recommendations include geographic areas to which individual recommendations apply, agencies or organizations responsible for implementation, partner agencies to provide support, and a timeline for implementation.
The cities of Spokane, Airway Heights, and Medical Lake and the County of Spokane each adopted resolutions between May 2010 and June 2010 to participate in a coordinated effort to prioritize and implement the JLUS recommendations.
Spokane County helped to form a JLUS Implementation Coordination Committee, and worked with participating jurisdictions to draft a model implementation ordinance and comprehensive plan policies and goals. Each jurisdiction could then individually adopt these policies and ordinances to ensure long-term sustainability of the Fairchild AFB mission. Spokane County and the City of Spokane each adopted the JLUS implementing ordinance in May 2012. The cities of Medical Lake and Airway Heights initially declined to adopt the ordinance, but continue to work with Spokane County to find acceptable solutions for each jurisdiction.
Fairchild Air Force Base Joint Land Use Study: www.spokanecounty.org/BP/content.aspx?c=2298
Spokane County Adopts Interim Zoning Ordinance: www.spokanecounty.org/loaddoc.aspx?docid=7118