SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane City Council has changed its mind and is now trying to reverse its opposition to a new casino in Airway Heights.
The Spokane Tribe wants to build the mixed use entertainment and casino development near Highway 2 and Craig Road. The 145 acre development would sit here and would be two miles away from Northern Quest casino.
The biggest concern for opponents isn't on the ground but in the air above where tankers from Fairchild Air Force base fly training sorties.
In 2012, the Spokane City Council passed a resolution stating the city was against the Spokane Tribe's economic development plan to build a casino in Airway Heights. Now they want to rescind that resolution.
"All of the points on the original resolution that passed have been contradicted by the facts on the ground," City Council President Ben Stuckart said.
The development originally came under fire for it's proximity to Fairchild; a joint land use study adopted by the county in 2012 placed the location of the new casino in a military impact area, a factor that could put the future viability of Fairchild in jeopardy.
"And in Spokane more than 52 percent of the flights are training flights that will be fully loaded tankers, going directly over a very populated facility," said Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke.
Fairchild brings in more than $1 Billion in economic impact to Spokane each year. Stuckart says in his discussion with military officials the new casino would not impact the base's future.
"It's a red herring that really scares us and tries to scare these projects. I think that the only encroachment here is the economic encroachment on the Kalispel Tribe's casino," said Stuckart, referring to Northern Quest.
The final economic impact statement is now in the hands of the Secretary of the Interior for approval or denial.
"The only reason that this type of facility would be allowed is that it's tribal and it falls outside the normal regulations," said Mielke.
Stuckart says the city should have been neutral all along.
"While it's at the federal level it's inappropriate for the City of Spokane to be officially weighing in," said Stuckart.
Mielke, however, said pick a side.
"Are we going to be unified, strong and consistent in our messaging about protecting Fairchild Air Force Base?" he asked.
If the economic impact statement is approved, it will then be sent to Governor Jay Inslee for final approval for construction begins.
Meanwhile, the city council will vote on taking back its stance against the development on February 24.
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