Rural development often encroaches on the traditional habitat of wild animals.
These creatures can be a nuisance or become dangerous. Animals like turkey,
deer, coyotes and moose can cross the road unexpectedly and cause auto
accidents. In general, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance. Let the animals
be themselves, watch them, but avoid chasing them or allowing your pets to do
so. Also, food or trash not properly stored and pet feces may attract unwanted
wildlife attention. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)
great sources for additional wildlife information.
This has become an issue for me personally as well as local neighbors and many others throughout the rural areas who moved to the country to find peace, tranquility and solitude. When I purchased my little "piece of heaven" back in 2005 it was just that..."my little piece of heaven". I thought 10.5 acres was enough to give me "space", and for the first 12 years it was. Today however is a different story. The 57 acres that borders me on the north and west was once a neighboring peaceful setting of field grasses blowing in the wind. As of 2018 however the new owners have created a private "motocross" course and we now endure the constant noise and dust almost daily during the spring, summer and fall seasons.
I state this to inform and hopefully prevent others from dealing with this issue. If you're considering moving to the country for peace, tranquility and solitude don't assume that that vacant land near to, or bordering yours will always be vacant. I also recommend looking at inhabited lands near or bordering yours to see if this activity is already present.
Colossians 3:23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Rural Areas are a Treasured Natural Resource. The terrain, wildlife, majestic beauty and tranquility are all special amenities that characterize living in the country. This section of my website is intended for those considering the purchase and/or use of rural property. It's intended to serve as a guide on what to expect for services, land use and the unique character of rural environments. As a long time resident of Spokane County in Washington state, many of the specifics on services, amenities and land use will be related to Spokane County.
The following information is borrowed from a handout provided by Spokane County. However, this information can be applied in any rural area.
LIFE IN THE COUNTRY can be significantly different from that in urbanized areas and there are a number of issues you should consider before moving to a rural area. One of the important differences is the distance from shopping areas and services. In a rural environment, the distance to common services such as grocery stores, gas stations, post office, medical facilities, etc. may be a "country mile". Public transit services are also very limited, making a dependable vehicle a necessity.
Services common in cities and towns such as garbage removal, mail delivery, drinking water, sewer and snow removal are either not available in some rural areas or may be accomplished in a different manner. For example, instead of water from a municipal source you'll have to dig a well on your own property if it doesn't already have one. The depth to water can range from 100' to 400'+. The price just to get water could very well be more costly than the land purchase itself. In addition, popular amenities such as cable TV and high internet speed may not be available, and cellular phone service may be intermittent to non existent.
Rural character and living in the country may appear "charming" on a weekend drive, but it can be quite different if you're unprepared. Farms and ranches are wonderful places, but livestock can produce odors, and agricultural activities generate dust from tilling and harvesting. Wildlife enjoyed from a distance can be a serious nuisance when they eat your trees, flowers and vegetable garden. But, they can also become dangerous when they cause car accidents, invade your property, and threaten domestic pets. And, of course, the more land you enjoy, the more time and effort you can expect to put into property maintenance.
RURAL AREAS CAN BE CHARACTERIZED as being dominated by natural features, wildlife and open spaces rather than the human built structures and infrastructure of urban areas. Homes are farther apart and residential densities are very low, typically less than one dwelling per every 5 or 10 acres. Land in rural areas tend to be used for resource-based activities like farming, grazing, forestry and mining. Landowners often customize their land to their particular needs and use. Commercial development is minimal and is typically associated with agricultural and resource industries. Rural areas are found in small towns and unincorporated communities that serve the local populations and traveling public.
This page is is updated regularly. Please enjoy the current publications and return to see updates.
THE FACT THAT YOU CAN DRIVE to your property today does not necessarily guarantee that you, your guests, or emergency service vehicles can achieve that same level of access at all times. Please consider the following:
Emergency Response Times for the Sheriff's Office, Fire Districts, Emergency Medical Care, etc. are not as quick or consistent in rural areas as they are in urban areas. Many emergency service and fire responders in rural areas are volunteers and not all stations are staffed 24-hours a day. These responders can be delayed due to travel distance, volunteer mobilization time, road condition or difficulty finding an unmarked or improperly posted/displayed address. Transit times for emergency medical services can take longer, as well, with most hospitals and medical providers located within the city.
The Legal Right to Access can be an issue for properties that do not have direct access to public roads and for utility lines. Properties without frontage on public roads are typically served by easements or private roads. Easements are the legal rights to cross other people's property for a specific purpose, in a specific location. It is wise to research and understand the easements that provide access to land you have an interest in purchasing.
An example of easement rights is pictured at left showing my personal Property 1 along with two neighbors at Property 2 and Property 3. As indicated, Yellowstone/Conoco Pipeline has an easement through my property. Due to the easement agreement I must contact Yellowstone/Conoco if I intend to make any changes or improvement on this section of my property. My neighbor of Property 3 has an easement through Property 2 in order to access his land.
Before purchasing rural land, find out what easements benefit the property and what easements affect it. I title report will describe the easements affecting a parcel. Please contact the Department of Building and Planning www.spokanecounty.org/bp regarding building within designated easement. Public vs. Private Roads. Spokane County maintains approximately 2,500 miles of roads. Many rural properties are accessed by private roads (sometimes called Lanes) which are maintained by the landowners, homeowner's associations or private parties. Some County roads are classified as "summer roads" and are not maintained year round. Some public roads and right-of-ways are undeveloped and not maintained. Before you purchase rural property, make sure you know what type of road it is served by, what type and level of maintenance to expect, and who will provide that service. Please note that Spokane County does not maintain private roads. For questions about access and roads, contact the Division of Engineering and Roads www.spokanecounty.org/engineer can be of assistance in this area.
The image at left shows 8 private roads within 1 square mile that are maintained by Common Ground Works and/or the homeowner's association or property owners.
Property Easement Maintenance
There are many different types of easements that may be created on real property, and the law governing them can be complicated. However, the law is fairly clear about who has responsibility for maintaining an easement. Basically, the person or party using an easement, known as an easement holder, has a duty to maintain it. Easement holders don't become owners of the land attached to their easements, though, and within limits the actual landowners retain most rights over it.
Easement Owner Rights
A landowner having an easement on her land is also known as the easement owner. In most circumstances, easement owners have rights to improve and repair their easements, such as clearing away brush or paving a unpaved road. However, an easement owner can't interfere with the easement holder's use and enjoyment of the easement. For example, a private road on your land that was created by easement can't be blocked off by you, because that would prevent the easement's holder from using it.
Many large construction vehicles cannot navigate small, narrow roads. If you plan to build a house or outbuildings, it is a good idea to check out construction access. The Division of Engineering and Roads www.spokanecounty.org/engineer can be of assistance in this area.
School Buses travel only on maintained roads designated as school bus routes by the serving school district. If you live on a private road, you may need to transport your children to a designated bus stop so they can get to school. Check with the local school district for bus routes, pick-up and drop-off times and procedures for extreme weather conditions.
Unpaved Roads Generate Dust and Contribute to Air Pollution. If you are considering purchasing property on or near an unpaved road, you may want to consider that it will generate dust. This dust will become an issue in your homes and vehicles. Vehicle maintenance will be critically important more today than ever before due to the electronics and computers used in automobiles today. Spokane County DOES NOT treat roads to suppress dust. Unpaved roads may be treated for dust suppression by a contractor authorized by the Division of Roads and Engineering to do dust abatement.
If Your Road is Unpaved, it is highly unlikely that Spokane County will pave it without formation of a Road Improvement District (RID) to finance the improvements. RIDs make use of a special property tax levied on the benefiting properties to pay for road improvements. Check with the Division of Roads and Engineering www.spokanecounty.org/engineer or call (509) 477-3600 for more information on dust control and RIDs.
Private Roads and Driveways need Annual Maintenance. Even with proper engineering, design and construction, annual maintenance is necessary to prolong the life of private roads. This can require hiring a contractor or renting specialized equipment at your own expense. With the expense of renting specialized equipment it's best to call me (Mark) at (509) 389-8191 as I can most likely complete the job cheaper while doing a professional job.
Unpaved Roads can be Rough, especially in the spring. Potholes and Washboards are usually created by vehicles traveling too fast. Once the Washboards appear ironically drivers will increase their speed to "glide" over them, making them even worse. You may experience an increase in vehicle maintenance costs if you regularly travel on unpaved roads.
County Roads, paved or unpaved are Subject to Weight Restrictions, typically in the months of February through April during the freeze/thaw cycle. Posted load restrictions on County roads will affect your ability to haul heavy loads to and from your property. These restrictions primarily apply to commercial trucks carrying heavy loads such as dirt, rock, building supplies, etc. Contact the Division of Engineering and Roads at (509) 477-3600 or www.spokanecounty.org/engineer for more information.
Extreme Weather Conditions and Natural Disasters can Destroy Roads. Rapid snow melt or seasonal runoff may destroy roads, bridges, culverts and driveways. Spokane County will repair and maintain County Roads; however private roads and driveways are the responsibility of the property owner(s).
Snow Plows May Block Access to your Property. Snow plowing creates berms along the sides of the roads and across driveways. Please note that the County DOES NOT clear snow berms when public roads are plowed. Clearing the end of your driveway or private road is your responsibility. Also, removing snow from your private road or driveway by pushing or blowing it into a County right-of-way is unlawful and unsafe. You should also ensure your mailbox, either established or a planned future installation is properly constructed to withstand the impact of snow
by County snow plowing trucks.County plow trucks can plow at speeds up to 45 mph +/- which can, and will destroy poorly constructed mailboxes and stands. I personally recommend installing a steel post and platform to secure your mailbox to such as my own which is pictured at right. I fabricated this structure to withstand the impact of flying snow and ice after losing two mailboxes to the plow. After setting the steel post and platform in the ground the first mailbox was basically imploded from impact and destroyed. Therefore I added the old steel wheel to disperse the flying snow and reduce the impact. So far it's still standing after 4 years. Spokane County is not responsible for mailbox damage from plowing.
Snowstorms can make rural roads impassable. You may need a four wheel drive vehicle, tire chains or traction tires for travel during extreme winter weather. Emergency vehicle response time may be significantly increased and school buses may use alternative routes or may not operate during major snow events. In some circumstances, snow removal may result in narrowed travel ways. Spokane County may also temporarily close a road for public safety reasons during significant snow events.
Snow Drifts can be an even bigger danger, making roads completely impassable long after the Snow Storm has passed. Although residents in urban areas do experience snow drifts, those living in rural areas often experience them on a larger scale and more frequently.
Snow Drifts primarily occur in areas with little to no protection from the blowing winds such as long stretches of open roadways, large open fields, open plains, etc. Travel through Snow Storms, although not recommended, is a common practice that
most people have minimal problems with as the constant travel keeps the snow levels from magnifying significantly.
Snow Drifts however can and do occur with little to no notice. The wind simply blows the snow that already fallen
until it finds places to begin building up. It is very common to experience Snow Drifts for many days after the
storm has passed. If you intend to live in a rural area in or around Spokane County you WILL encounter these
Snow Drifts somewhere along your travels.
Ice Storms are also a factor of life here in the Inland Northwest that hits and affects both urban and rural
residents alike. The last major Ice Storm we experience hit Washington and Idaho on November 19th 1996.
The greatest dangers created from Ice Storms are falling trees and power lines straining from the massive weight
of the ice causing power outages. Trees not only fall over from the additional weight of the ice but can also literally
explode. This is caused from the extreme pressure being built up inside the tree from the freezing water in the trees core.
I personally experienced this phenomenon on a hunting trip during the Ice Storm of 1996. My first thought was "Get out of the woods".
I did just that, only to find my route back home to be blocked by dozens of fallen trees and power lines. Luckily there were local residents
living in the area already out with chainsaws clearing the roads. What they couldn't fix was the beginning of the power outages.
These power outages can last for days or sometimes weeks, making the need for back-up power a MUST in rural areas.
Dependable Transportation will be another MUST when living in rural areas. Although a good dependable four-wheel or
all-wheel drive vehicle is highly recommended don't be fooled into believing that either of these can travel through Snow Storms,
Snow Drifts or Ice Storms effortlessly. They're not the "Bat Mobile" and they're not invincible. More accident occur from people
driving these types of vehicles than any other because of overconfidence. They do provide better traction....if you have the
proper tires and/or traction device on them, unlike the SUV pictures at right.
"All Season" Tires aren't necessarily good for all seasons, especially when driving on snow and ice. Actual "Winter Tires"
are made from a softer compound and really do get better traction, however they will not last as long as All Winter Tires if
driven year round as the softer compound will wear more quickly on constant hot asphalt surfaces. I personally have two
sets of tires/wheels for each vehicle I own. This makes it easier to swap tires seasonally, not requiring the drive to the local
tire store to have the tires swapped out using the same wheel/rim. It saves time, money and tires life.
A Winter Emergency Travel Kit is also highly recommended to carry in your vehicle at all times. These kits can be purchased
locally or on-line and come in many shapes and sizes or you can build your own such as I did. I've attached a link to my
IN GENERAL, RURAL AREAS HAVE fewer utilities and service provider options than urban areas. Services such as water, sewer, electrical, utility gas, telephone and cable TV may be unavailable, or accomplished in a different manner in rural areas. When service outages occur, repairs can often take much longer than in urban areas.
Land Line Telephone service is available in most areas of the County where there are existing structures. Service to new construction in rural areas may be expensive if new service lines need to be installed. Contact the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission at www.utc.wa.gov or call 888-333-9882 to see which phone company serves your area of interest and what telecommunications services are available.
Cellular Phone Service is available in most rural areas, but terrain and proximity to cellular towers can result in service interruptions. If you're planning to purchase undeveloped land to build a home I highly recommend walking the property to find out where your best cellular signal is found. This may be a good spot to build your home.
Sewer Service is rarely available to rural properties. Instead, On-Site Septic Systems are the norm. The cost of a new septic system can vary significantly depending on the soil types and ground composition at the location. Typically, the highest cost of septic systems today are the drain fields, otherwise referred to as leach fields. Gone are the days of digging a deep hole and filling it with drain/river rock. Today's system are very complex, usually requiring construction by certified personnel.
If the homestead is already established with the modern drain field as pictured at right you will normally see green or white pipes approximately 6"- 9" in diameter protruding from the ground. These are inspection tubes used to inspect for blockage in the system of larger drain tubes. Depending on your ground composition these drain
tubes may be inches from the surface or down 3' or more. Some are even constructed above ground requiring the sewer to be pumped up to the drain field. Drain fields or septic tanks should never be driven over as it could collapse the system. That's not to say however that you cannot drive over the system with a small riding mower or atv to maintain the grounds. A very common problem with drain fields is the abundance of normally very dense vegetation. This vegetation, more commonly weeds, need to be kept under control otherwise they themselves could cause problems for the septic system. Back to the inspection tubes. These tubes are typically left protruding from the ground anywhere from 6" to 36". No rhyme or reason, just where the contractor decided to cut them. These can be cut down to around 6" above the ground if you prefer not to look at these pipes on a daily basis. I would however recommend that they be marked in some way if there will be any activities in the general area of the drain field such as mowing or sports or anything else. Contact the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) www.srhd.org for more information on septic systems.
Water typically comes from Private Wells in rural areas. Wells are regulated by the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE). The cost for drilling a well can be significant and the quality and quantity of well water can vary considerably from location to location and from season to season.
Most private wells are exempt from obtaining water right and are often called "permit exempt
wells". Water use from permit exempt wells are limited to 5,000 gallons of water per day for
domestic use, an unlimited quantity for irrigation of 1/2 acre of lawn and garden, 5,000 gallons
per day for industrial/commercial use, and an unlimited quantity for stock watering. Some parcels
do include water rights, but the extent and validity of the rights should be researched carefully.
In addition to DOE regulation, the use of a private well for a home is regulated by Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) www.srhd.org.
Prior signing off on a building permit SRHD requires a pump test that demonstrates a minimum yield of one-gallon per minute and satisfactory nitrate
and bacteria tests. The Department of Ecology www.ecy.wa.gov is an excellent resource to research the legal aspects of availability of water for
your intended use in your particular location. They also maintain a database of well logs which can be used to research the physical availability of water in your particular location.
Your water system will consist of the water well pumping system, pressure tank, electrical power source, outdoor water lines and finally your indoor water. Special consideration should be given to protecting your water system from the elements, primarily freezing up during winter months. As pictured in the upper right, the water well usually looks similar to the one pictured. The heads can vary in shape and form from typical to decorative. The location of the well will be determined by the location and access to the water source so you really have no choice in where this will be located. The pressure tank however can be situated in a location convenient for your need. If you're to have a basement in your home then this would be a good and typical location. If however you do not have a basement you will need to protect the tank and waterlines from freezing. The perfect location in my opinion is in the ground, using the earths natural insulation properties. The cement structure pictured above at bottom right is used the house the pressure tank, incoming and outgoing water line connections and the electrical power to the system. This is a very efficient and inexpensive way to protect your water source and can be placed at the well site. This is the system I use myself. Other than in the basement or underground another option is to build a "well house" above ground. These of course can be very effective and can be designed decoratively so it's more appealing. Since the goal is to protect from freezing, special care should be given to adequate insulation of the structure. Many property owners with old and outdated well houses must bring in a heater or heat lamp to keep the lines from freezing, which can be frustrating and time consuming. Yet another option is to place
Washington State Business License: COMMOGW841C4
Common Rural Activities can be considerably different than those found in the urban areas. The following are some of the important things to consider:
While providing recreational opportunities for many people, hunting is also a tool for managing wildlife populations.
Many areas in rural Spokane County are open for hunting. While you certainly have the right to exclude this activity
from occurring on your property, your neighbors may allow it on theirs.
Gunfire is frequently heard in rural areas. Target practice on private property is commonly the source. This is permissible
during the daylight hours, outside of "NO SHOOTING AREAS" and if done in a safe manner. Spokane County does
have designated "NO SHOOTING AREAS". A map of the "NO SHOOTING AREAS" is maintained by the Division of
Engineering and Roads (www.spokanecounty.org/engineer) and enforced by the County Sheriff's Office (www.spokanecounty.org/sheriff)
Dogs and Cats
Pets such as dogs and cats are not supposed to run free in rural areas, but the often do. There is a leash law in unincorporated Spokane County - even if outside the cities. All dogs and cats over the age of 6 months must be licensed. Contact the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Agency (SCRAPS) at www.spokanecounty.org/scraps or call (509) 477-2532 for more information on licensing pets. The Spokane County Zoning Code limits the number of dogs and cats that may be kept to combine a total of four. Keeping more dogs and cats will require a private kennel permit. To keep or house more than eight dogs and cats, a Commercial Kennel License and a Conditional Use Permits are required. Contact the Department of Building and Planning at www.spokanecounty.org/bp or call (509) 477-3675 for more information on permits and kennel requirements.
Livestock, horses, chickens, etc.
Keeping livestock, horses, chickens, goats, rabbits, pigs, etc. are common in the rural areas of Spokane County. For public health reasons,
there are regulations that limit the number of animals that may be kept based upon property size. The Spokane County Zoning Code also
establishes setbacks for pens and runs from neighboring dwelling units. Contact the Department of Building and Planning at
www.spokanecounty.org/bp or call (509) 477-3675 for more information.
Raising livestock is becoming more and more common today as many people desire to be more self sufficient by providing their own food
sources. Many people raise livestock merely out of pure enjoyment. Either way, anyone making the decision to raise any livestock should be
prepared for the extra work involved such as care, feeding, cleaning and sanitation and the inevitable veterinarian visit and ensuing bill.
You will need to consider shelters, dry place for feed, constant water and protection from wildlife as well.
Off Road Vehicles such as quads, dirt bikes and snow mobiles are commonly heard and seen in rural areas. Many rural property owners use them for both property maintenance and recreation. Conversely, if you enjoy using ORVs, be considerate of your neighbors. They have a right to peacefully enjoy their property too. Excessive recreational riding in close proximity to homes may cause conflicts with your neighbors due to noise and dust. Read the ORV brochure at http://www.spokanecounty.org/bp or call (509) 477-3675 for more information.
Wood or Pellet Stoves
Wood or Pellet Stoves are commonly used as a heating source in rural areas, but their use is regulated. Installation
of a stove requires a building permit and the stove must meet EPA and Washington State emissions standards. Contact
Spokane County Building and Planning for permit information at www.spokanecounty.org/bp or call (509) 477-3675.
The Spokane Clean Air Agency may restrict wood heating due to impaired air quality. Call the Burn Info Hotline at
(509) 477-4710 prior to using your wood-heating devices. Firewood heats best and produces less smoke when it's split,
dried and seasoned before it's used. Please use caution when storing combustible materials close to structures and
remember that pellet stoves require electricity to operate. For more information about EPA-certified stoves and regulations
related to the use of wood burning stoves contact Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency www.spokanecleanair.org or call (509) 477-4727.
Outdoor burning and recreational fires often occur in rural areas, but there are rules
and there can be significant risks. If you start a wildfire, you may be responsible for
paying for the cost of extinguishing it and for any damages. The use of burn barrels
is prohibited in the State of Washington as is the burning of garbage. Burning natural
vegetation from improved residential property is prohibited in all areas of Spokane
County, except by permit, within the boundaries of Fire Districts of 2, 5, 11 and 12.
Please contact Spokane Clean Air Agency at (509) 477-4727 or your Fire District for more
information. Burning vegetation as a result of forest practices is administered
by the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at www.dnr.wa.gov.
Spokane County Fire Code Official www.spokanecounty.org may issue an outdoor
burning ban during periods of high fire danger. Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency
www.spokanecleanair.org may restrict outdoor burning during periods of poor air quality.
Contact your local Fire District for further information on fire safety.
Outdoor storage is very common in rural areas. Agricultural products, fuel, wood and equipment
such as vehicles, tractors, excavation and other items used for land management and agricultural
uses are frequently stored outside. Consideration should be given to constructing or installing a
proper facility to store items to protect them from the elements.
Emergency Preparedness is wise for rural dwellers. "When" the power goes out, it could be a while before it's restored to working order, especially if it's the result of winter storm activity. Many people make use of alternative heating sources such as properly installed
and permitted wood stoves. A generator to provide back-up power is a very wise
investment for all rural dwellers. On average, a portable generator providing 5000 watts+
will provide enough power to run a room or two as well and keep the refrigerator and
freezer running. A permanently installed back-up unit, although more costly is always a
great idea, although more expensive. Either way, a generator should be on hand before
the big storm because as is always the case everyone will head to the local merchant
when it's too late because all the generators have been sold out.
Electrical service may not be readily available in every area of Spokane County. It is important to determine the proximity of electrical lines to your property of interest because it can be very expensive to extend power line to remote areas. It ma be desirable to cross property owned by others in order to extend electric service to your property in the most cost efficient manner. A utility easement will be required to do this. Neighboring property owners may want to be compensated for granting easements across their property.
Electric Power may not be available in two-phase or three-phase service configurations. If you have special power requirements, contact the service provider for your area for information about the types of service that are available and associated costs.
When Power Outages occur in outlying areas it can take longer for service to be restored, especially during storms. A loss of electric power can interrupt the supply of water from a well and make heating devices and pellet stoves inoperable. Generators can serve as a back-up source of electricity and many rural residents use them.
Natural Gas may not be available outside of urban areas. Propane is often used as a substitute. It is typically stored in above ground tanks and refilled by delivery trucks. Tanks can be installed below ground if desired.
Trash Collection is available at most locations within Spokane County. Rural residents also have the option to haul their own refuse to regional transfer stations. Recycling service is not available in some rural areas, but is available at regional transfer stations. Garbage disposal fires and use of burn barrels are prohibited statewide.
High Speed Internet is not common in most rural areas. Internet service may be obtained through dial up, satellite TV providers or through cellular service, where available.
Cellular Phone Service is available in most rural areas, but terrain and proximity to cellular towers can result in service interruptions.
TV Reception in rural areas may be challenging due to terrain and distance from transmission towers. If over-the-air channels are available, their number will be significantly less than you will find in urban areas. Satellite TV is usually the preferred option of those who want a variety of television programming.
Mail and Newspaper delivery may not be available in all areas. Contact the Post Office and newspaper of choice for delivery options in your area.
Standard Parcel and Overnight Package Delivery may not be available in all areas.
Check with service providers to see where delivery is available.
Emergency Services like Fire, Law Enforcement, and Emergency Medical Care are available to rural areas but response times are longer than in urban areas. To help ensure that emergency services are able to find your home, clearly post/display your address at the intersection of your driveway and the public or private road. Contact your local fire district with any questions. Also, consider that medical services and hospitals are typically located in urban areas which are separated by distance and time from rural areas.
Transit Service is greatly reduced outside of urban areas. The Spokane Transit Authority (STA) serves Spokane's urban areas with bus, van pool and paratransit services. Rural area service is limited to van pool service. Contact STA www.spokanetransit.com or call (509) 328 RIDS (7433) for more information. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF LAND USE REGULATIONS that affect how property can be used. Before purchasing rural property it is wise to review applicable land use regulations. Please contact the Department of Building and Planning www.spokanecounty.org/bp or call (509) 477-3675 for more information. Spokane County has made an effort to protect its rural lands in form, function and productivity through adopted policies, environmental regulations and development standards. The County documents listed below may be useful to review. They are available at https://www.spokanecounty.org/486/Brochures. Land Uses in rural areas are regulated by the County Zoning Code. Go to www.spokanecounty.org/bp and click on the Zoning Code icon on the home page. All land has a zoning designation which corresponds to a set of allowed and prohibited uses. Check with the Department of Building and Planning before starting a business, construction, or other uses of the property to learn the rules and regulations. Building Permits are Required for construction of dwellings, most buildings and placement of manufactured homes. The permitting process helps ensure that buildings are safely constructed and that they meet with applicable construction and land use regulations. During the permit process, a zoning review is done to ensure the proposed use is allowed and the required setbacks and building heights are observed. Applicable environmental health regulations are also reviewed to ensure that an adequate sewage disposal system and potable water supply are available. Before starting construction, be sure to contact the Department of Building and Planning at (509) 477-3675 www.spokanecounty.or/bp for information on what permits are required.
Not all parcels are buildable. Many parcels were created by the Assessor's Office for taxation purposes only and are not considered buildable. Check with the Department of Building and Planning to determine the legal status of a parcel and its development potential
Running a Business is encouraged by Spokane County consistent with applicable regulations. Rural areas lack the services, infrastructure and amenities of urban areas and for this reason the types of businesses allowed are also restricted. The County Zoning Code allows a variety of rural dependent business and a number of smaller, less intense activities that are defined as Home Occupations and Home Industries. Please contact Department of Building and Planning www.spokanecounty.or/bp or call (509) 477-3675 prior to starting any business activity, for assistance with permits and applicable regulations. Surveys are not always done or required for the division of land in rural areas. A land survey conducted by a licensed, professional surveyor is one sure way to know where a parcel's boundaries are located. Do not assume that an existing fence line is the actual property line. Old fence lines can be outdated as parcels were possible modified in years past. One can view the property using the Spokane County Assessor mapping program SCOUT to get a "general" idea of the property boundaries such as the image at right. When a formal survey is done it is called a Record of Survey and it is field with the County Auditor where the public can view at www.spokanecounty.org/auditor. For more information, call the Auditor's Office at (509) 477-2270. Water Rights are a legal instrument that allows for the use of ground and surface waters. They can be bought and sold and sometimes come with purchase of the property. The fact that a stream crosses a piece of property does not mean the right to use the water comes with the property. The water rights may belong to someone either upstream or downstream. Most private wells are exempt from obtaining a water right and are often called "permit exempt wells". Water use from a permit exempt well is limited by law to 5,000 gallons per day for domestic use, an unlimited quantity for irrigation of 1/2 acre of lawn and garden, 5,000 gallons per day for industrial/commercial use, and an unlimited quantity for stock watering. For more information, please contact the Washington Department of Ecology at www.ecy.wa.gov. Creeks, Streams, Rivers and Wetlands are Regulated by the County's Shoreline Ordinance and Critical Areas Ordinance. Both documents are available at https://www.spokanecounty.org/720/Codes-Ordinances. These regulations limit uses and establish setbacks adjacent to various bodies of waters. Natural vegetation typically cannot be disturbed in shorelines and critical area buffers. If you are contemplating development of property near a lake, stream, marsh or wetland, please check with the Department of Building and Planning www.spokanecounty.org/bp before starting any work.
Undeveloped Land May Be Developed in the Future. Check with the Department of Building and Planning www.spokanecounty.or/bp to determine the zoning, comprehensive plans designation, and approved land use actions for the area. This will will give you an idea how neighboring properties may be developed in the future.
The population in the city of Spokane alone has increase by approximately 48,000 residents in the last 34 years, when I arrived in 1985. That number does not include outlying suburbs and county residents. What was once considered rural living is no longer rural as the city has expanded over the years and will continue to do so well into the future.
The Inland Northwest Climate
SPOKANE COUNTY TYPICALLY EXPERIENCES all four seasons.Winters can be very cold, with a number of days below freezing and occasionally dropping below zero. Summers can be very hot, with many days above 90 degrees and occasional periods where temperatures top 100 degrees.
Winter Storms and prolonged Icy Conditions are common and should be planned for. Prepare for winter (Winterizing) should be done for both homes and vehicles. Make sure vehicles have good antifreeze, winter wipers and wiper fluid, and an emergency kit that includes a snow/ice scraper and a blanket.
Homes need to have hoses drained, removed for faucets, and put away, sprinkler systems blown out and crawlspace vents closed. This is also a good time to stock up on firewood and fuel for generators and snow blowers, food (hay) for livestock to last through winter (4-5 months), locate snow shovels, and get the snow blower ready.
Please remember, the responsibility for plowing your driveway or private road is yours. The County only plows public roads. The Division of Engineering and Roads maintains a Snow Plow Priority Map at
Summer Wildfires can be a real threat to rural property owners. Fire danger can be reduced by clearing a defensible space around structures. A minimum of 30 foot clear area around structures, consisting of maintained and watered lawn, pruned shrubs and trees can help mitigate the spread of wildfires to buildings.
Other Recommended Fire Safety Actions include:
- Replace combustible roofs and building materials with non-combustible materials.
- Store combustible materials such as firewood away from your house
- Maintain your driveway and access in good condition for emergency crew access
- Remove overgrowth and flammable materials and vegetation along roads and driveways
- Ensure you have a reliable water supply
- Develop a fire safety plan for you family and home
- Clearly post your address
- Learn more about wildfire danger by contacting your fire district
Agriculture, Forestry and Mining
SPOKANE COUNTY HAS A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT of land designated as Resource Lands where activities associated with agriculture, forestry and mining occur. These activities are important to the regional economy, but can sometimes be disruptive to rural residential uses in close proximity. Below are a few things to consider.
Agricultural Activities can be Disturbing to nearby residential uses. Farmers often run machinery around the clock, especially during planting and harvesting. Dairy operators sometime milk without stopping, and hay is often swathed and baled at night. Low-flying crop dusting airplanes may operate during irregular hours. Land preparation and other operations produce exhaust fumes, cause dust, and produce odors from the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
Agriculture is an Important Business in Spokane County. If you choose to live among the farms and ranches of our rural countryside, please consider activities of your agri-business neighbors. Washington State Protects Farmers and Ranchers from Nuisance and Liability Lawsuits with policies that support the production of food, fiber and forest products.
Livestock can Produce Odors and be Dangerous. Caution should be exercised around cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and other livestock because these animals have unpredictable behavior and can be dangerous to humans. County Code requires that pens and runs be setback from neighboring residences. Contact the Department of Building and Planning for more information.
Mining activities can be disturbing to neighboring residents due to the noise and vibrations from trucks, processing, machinery and blasting. Mining activities within Spokane County require permits. Please see the Department of Building and Planning www.spokanecounty.org/bp or call (509) 477-3675. Timber Production is encouraged and protected by state law. When timber is harvested dramatic changes to the landscape may occur. Harvesting timber requires permits which as accompanied with harvest plans that outline how the activity will be carried out and comply with the County's Critical Areas Ordinance. Contact the Department of Building and Planning www.spokanecounty.or/bp or the State Department of Natural Resources www.dnr.wa.gov if you are considering a harvest, or for more information. Property taxes can be deferred in many rural areas for engaging in activities that produce food, fiber or forest products under the State's Open Space Taxation Act. Check with the Spokane County Assessor www.spokanecounty.org/assessor or call (509) 477-3698 for program information. Noxious Weeds are required to be controlled in Spokane County to protect agricultural uses. Some plants are poisonous to horses and other livestock, and others impede agricultural uses. Land owners are responsible for controlling weeds on their property. The County's Noxious Weed Control Board www.spokanecounty.org/weedboard enforces the County's weed control laws and can provide assistance on this issue. For more information, call (509) 477-5777.
Noxious weeds are not only a problem for agriculture. Noxious weeds can spread very fast, taking over your personal property, choking out many of the native grasses and vegetation. The majority of these noxious weeds have very deep root systems which allow them to thrive on moisture deep within the ground whereas the grasses, having shallow root systems struggle to survive in the dryer surface soil. The noxious weeds also rob the soil of much needed nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, sulfur and others that grasses need to survive.
Click on the Noxious Weeds of Concern at right to be directed to the Spokane County Noxious Weeds Website. I have posted a selected few of the most prominent noxious weeds I come across almost daily during the growing seasons.
Invasive grasses are also a big problem in Spokane and surrounding counties, which can deplete the needed nutrient needed by native grasses, allowing the invasive grasses to overcome properties.
Being in the land management business, these invasive grasses many times are more difficult to eradicate than are the noxious weeds. This is because the weeds can be control with chemicals that will not affect the native grasses, but to eradicate the invasive grasses it normally requires eradicating native grasses as well and re-establishing the native grasses completely. Each property is different however so hands, feet and eyes on the ground are required to establish the best solution for each property.
Click on an image for a more detailed picture and information
Assessor <> 509-477-3696
Auditor <> 509-477-2260
Building & Planning <> 509-477-3675
County Commissioners Office <> 509-477-2265
Engineering & Roads <> 509-477-3600
Fire Code Official <> 509-477-3675
Park & Recreation <> 509-477-4730
Sheriff <> 509-477-4739
Treasurer <> 509-477-4713
Utilities & Stormwater <> 509-477-3604
Noxious Weed Control Board <> 509-477-5777
Spokane County Cooperative Extension <> 509-477-2048
Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Agency
(SCRAPS) <> 509-477-2532
Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency <> 509-477-4727
Spokane Regional Health District <> 509-324-1560
Spokane Transit Authority <> 509-328-7433
Department of Ecology <> 509-329-3400
Department of Fish and Wildlife <> 509-456-4082
Department of Health <> 360-236-4501
Department of Natural Resources <> 509-689-7474
Utilities and Transportation Commission <> 888-333-9882
Spokane Valley Fire District <> 509-928-1700
Fire District #2 <> 509-238-2195
Fire District #3 <> 509-235-6645 / 509-624-7103
Fire District #4 <> 509-467-4500
Fire District #5 <> 509-796-4793
Fire District #8 <> 509-926-6699
Fire District #9 <> 509-466-4602
Fire District #10 <> 509-244-2425
Fire District #11 <> 509-291-6666
Fire District #12 <> 509-283-4372
Fire District #13 <> 509-226-1482
Spokane County Commissioner Districts
Spokane County Commissioner Districts and Population
Spokane City/County Fire Stations and Districts
Spokane County Fire Stations and Districts
Spokane County Legislative Districts and Boundaries
Spokane County Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA)
Click on images for larger view
City of Spokane, Spokane County, Bureau of Land Management, Esri Canada, Esri, HERE, Garmin, USGS, NGA, EPA, USDA, NPS | Spokane County Information Technology Department