Deer Park is enjoying a surge in construction right now, but observers say that if the town of 3,200 is going to get beyond the bedroom community image it has had since its lumber mill closed in the early1970s, its going to have to find a way to pay for the infrastructure needed to support further growth.
Among the projects planned or under way in Deer Park, located about 15 miles north of Spokane, are a handful of commercial, retail, and industrial buildings, as well as a spate of new housing and a $42 million new high school.
What Deer Park needs, though, is to create a self-sustaining community in which people can both live and work, says Robert Whisman, the citys mayor. That means creating jobs, increasing the tax base, and attracting the services residents want, Whisman says.
Our dilemmas always been that were a little too close to Spokane, he says.
Attracting residential growth apparently hasnt been as challenging. The citys population grew 42 percent between 1990 and 2007, nearly three times the pace of growth in the city of Spokane.
Last year, the city of Deer Park issued building permits for 57 new homes, and it has issued more than a dozen such permits this year, says Roger Krieger, the citys community services director. Most of those permits have been issued for the housing development around the Deer Park Golf & Country Club, Krieger says.
The city also has annexed about 50 acres of farmland owned by Deer Park resident Robert Dyck, at Short and Enoch roads, on which Tomlinson Black South Inc., of Spokane, is developing a 125-lot subdivision.
On another 50-acre parcel Dyck owns nearby, Tomlinson Black is developing what Dyck calls a smaller, five-lot cluster of homes, Dyck says.
With the rising cost of installing infrastructure for such developments, however, it could be some time before either development is completed, Dyck says. He adds that demand for homes there has softened somewhat since he first began the annexation process three years ago, though he believes its still strong enough for the projects to be successful.
In another advance for housing there, Whisman says the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity program bought 18 acres of vacant land southwest of H Street on South Colville Street last year to construct low-income housing.
Whisman, who himself owns a coin-operated laundry outlet, a mini-storage business, and some commercial rental property in Deer Park, says the residential growth is good for Deer Park, and spurs retail growth. Commercial projects
Among the commercial projects slated or under way in Deer Park is a $2.2 million, 10,000-square-foot commercial building that related companies WAM Enterprises Inc., of Bend Ore., and BAM Enterprises Inc., of Spokane, are planning to develop jointly. The building would be erected on a portion of the former Deer Park Fairgrounds near Main Street.
Meanwhile, Vandervert Construction Inc., of Spokane is building a $2.6 million, 35,000-square-foot retail store for Eugene, Ore.-based Bi-Mart Corp., near the corner of Main and D streets. That multi-department store is expected to employ up to 60 people when it opens this fall.
Vandervert also is building a $3 million, 37,000-square-foot building at 2205 E. Crawford Road for Spokane-based Northwest Steel Fabrication Inc., which plans to move its operations there from Cusick, Wash., later this summer.
Also, a Do-It Best Hardware store is moving into a commercial strip on Main, says Joe Tortorelli , an economic development consultant to the city of Deer Park.
Whisman says a number of other retail-oriented businesses, including a dentist, a mini-storage operator, and a motel are seeking property in the area.
One challenge the city faces is a need to make necessary infrastructure improvements to support additional commercial development, Tortorelli says. While city officials want to attract new businesses, theyre sensitive to how the cost of the necessary infrastructure could raise taxes in a community that prides itself on low taxes, he says.
He says that because Deer Park is outside the Spokane Transit Authoritys service area, its sales tax is just 8 percent, versus 8.6 percent in many other places within the county. Residential property taxes tend to be less as well, Tortorelli says.
One regulatory fee that might be higher, at least for now, is the citys traffic mitigation fee.
Bruce Miller, vice president of WAM Enterprises, says that when his company built a 10,000-square-foot retail building there several years ago, it had to pay about $35,000 based on the parking spaces it needed. That, Miller complains, works out to be about $600 per parking space.
The city of Spokane also is considering implementing traffic-impact fees.
Whisman says such fees are necessary to pay for road improvements needed to handle increased traffic necessitated by development.
Also, he contends, the cost of land in Deer Park remains much lower than in other areas. Tortorelli says property in Deer Park currently sells for about $1 per square foot, compared with $3 a square foot in Airway Heights.
The city is taking steps to improve the infrastructure that serves the community.
Tortorelli says the city has studied the cost of upgrading Airport and Cedar roads, which are the primary access to more than 400 acres of private and Deer Park Airport land thats zoned for industrial use. The cost of those improvements, which would make the roads all weather and would include the utilities manufacturing companies would need there, is estimated about $7.5 million, he says.
Meanwhile, the Deer Park School District plans soon to start work on a new, 156,000-square foot high school, to replace its 81,000-square-foot school there now, says Mick Miller, the districts superintendent. The district expects to award a contract for the work in late July and hopes the school will be ready for use in the fall of 2010.
Miller says the current building is bulging at the seams with about 700 students, due to strong student growth during the past few years.
Also, the city is preparing to construct a $3.5 million water reservoir and related equipment that will serve homes around the new high school, the golf course, the airport, and the industrial area, Krieger says.
Though the changes are coming steadily, the slow nature of such infrastructure improvements has a real effect on the citys ability to attract new jobs, Tortorelli says. Theres a convergence of need, he says.
For example, the lack of an all-weather road in the industrial zoned area near the airport recently cost the city two planned building projects that would have added 34,000 square feet of industrial space, Tortorelli says.
Dan McDonald, owner of MRS Metal Roofing & Siding Supply Inc., of Mead, which operates as MRS Metal Rollforming Systems, says he couldnt wait any longer for the city to build an all-weather road to the 10-acre parcel he owns in the industrial area. McDonald had planned to build a 24,000-square-foot manufacturing facility there, but has since decided to construct that facility in Spokane.
Last winter, if my business was there, it would have put me under, he says.
In a related project, McDonalds brother, Terry, had planned to relocate his business, Pro Builders, of Spokane, to a 10,000-square-foot building he would have built on an adjoining Deer Park property. He has scrapped that plan now, too. Still, the McDonalds say they plan to keep their Deer Park land for possible future expansion.
Tortorelli says rezoning for another proposed project, a 140-acre residential development in that same industrial area, was denied due to Federal Aviation Administration objections to homes being built in the airports flight path. Tortorelli says now that group is considering developing an industrial park there.
Weve encouraged them. Its zoned for it, and they have funds available to build speculative buildings, Tortorelli says. He adds, however, such a development would be dependent on the city being able to improve the roads there.
Tortorelli says the city has committed to those property owners to make the needed improvements, but theres no timelineor moneyfor the work yet.
Krieger says that even with the recent loss of planned business developments, he doesnt think the City Council would move forward with road upgrades if it means raising taxes for residents.
If it was an infrastructure-rich area there would be more development, Krieger says, adding that securing a grant for the necessary $7.5 million in upgrades is crucial for accomplishing that work.
The council doesnt have funds to pay for that work. If it meant debt and loans, Im not sure theyd be in support of it, Krieger says.
Tortorelli says that the city will have to make those infrastructure improvements to encourage commercial growth.
Theyve got hundreds of acres zoned industrial but couldnt attract anything because it doesnt have sewer and all-weather road, he says.
Whisman says improving the industrial infrastructure to attract more business is a priority for the city, and that while he likes the current rural feel of Deer Park, he expects even more growth will be spurred as the North Spokane Corridor brings more traffic through in the future.
You cant stop growth, you just try to guide it, Whisman says.
Contact Jeanne Gustafson at (509) 344-1264 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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