by Doug Nadvornick & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & here couldn't have been two more different scenes last week. At a Boundary Review Board annexation hearing Wednesday night, Spokane County officials accused their city counterparts of "cherry picking" the stretch of North Division that contains the busy Costco store. CEO Marshall Farnell said that store alone provides $700,000 in annual sales tax to the county. "It would provide a big hit to our tax base and force us to reduce services," he said.

The 135.5 acres the city wants to annex cover the west side of Division from Francis to Cascade Way. They include 32 businesses, 39 homes in the Park at Calispel development and Holy Cross Cemetery.

Monica Bramble, representing the city, said the proposal is not about adding tax base, but about "the city fulfilling its obligation [under Washington's Growth Management Act] to serve urban areas." She argued the city could provide better services to the people in the area, something county officials refuted.

"The city's claims are an extreme exaggeration," said Commissioner Todd Mielke. "The county already provides sewer and other services to the area."

But just the day before that hearing, Mielke and his two commission colleagues huddled with four Spokane city council members and their sack lunches around a map of the county in the commissioners' briefing room. They were trading annexation ideas.

"I could see us setting the city's northern boundary at Hawthorne Road," said Councilmember Al French, "and us giving up our interest in the area north of that [Wandermere]." At the same time, he said, it makes sense for the city to control the area around Kaiser Aluminum's now-closed Mead plant.

The participants agreed the West Plains should be a jointly controlled area. "We should do early planning there," said Commissioner Mark Richard. "Develop the reasons and articulate them to the public. That might help us avoid expensive annexation battles," like the fight over the Costco annexation.

"I'm much more interested in proactive planning versus the fight over already developed areas along North Division," said Richard.

"The city needs to define what its ultimate boundaries should be," said French, "and then shape a growth strategy around them that gives us the best chance at a sustainable future."

The commissioners and council subcommittee are scheduled to meet again next week to continue their discussions, which could then turn into policy proposals.

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