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Thank you too, Skinem! Your info was really great...and has also given me lots to consider about school placement for my kids.
Since it sounds like your familiar with the area around the base, may I ask your opinion? Is it as desolate in Medical Lake as it seems to be? Not a major grocery chain, nor a Starbucks, nor even a McDonalds to be seen? I'm not opposed to driving a few minutes for convenience, and the proximity to Fairchild is certianly a HUGE draw, but the town looks very...boring.
However, the property tax is certainly less than in the metro Spokane area. I just wondered, is Medical Lake a growing area, or just a rural, sleepy town, that is likely to stay that way?
Nope, your take on the town is fairly accurate, although I wouldn't call it desolate--certainly not by western standards! It has grown over the years (the housing and business on the north side of the highway between MS and the base wasn't there at all when I was a kid) but it's growth is slow and no reason to grow suddenly unless Spokane just booms. It's primarily a bedroom community for Spokane and has a lot of retired AF. It does have basic services and you can get the things you mention there, just not those chain brands--which some would say is a good thing!
The base convenience is great and Spokane wasn't terribly inconvenient...sometimes getting there or back home from Spokane in the winter was an adventure, especially with the blowing snow, but it rarely stopped us from doing anything we wanted to.
The taxes are enough of a consideration that my dad bought a small ranch/farm outside of there after his AF career...(actually David Aguilar, we turned at Deep Creek to get to it!) There are quite a few smaller properties that are nice for folks who want just a horse or two. Be sure to check Fairchild's flight paths (anywhere on the west side of Spokane)...you probably don't want to be right under one, although if you've been living on base, that probably wouldn't be a big deal.
By the way, some members of the Medical Lake school board are people I went to school with...I can't attest to their actual performance, because I don't live there now, but if good intentions count for any thing, they are the kind of people I'd want on my board here!
Where exactly is the new freeway supposed to be? For some reason I'm thinking it'll go through/by Hillyard?
If so, that probably won't help the drive on Division or Maple/Ash. Or will it?
All I can say is that I didn't like going north when I had to go north. It wasn't too much fun.
Here's the WDOT link: WSDOT - Project - US 395 - North Spokane Corridor
Upon reading more, they actually have just opened the first 3 1/2 miles of it(See Ribbon-cutting ceremony). The vizualizations that are on the website are pretty cool and show where the interchanges are going to be. I think it'll really help downtown--maybe even improve the neighborhoods that run along Division street, especially to the west like Shadle. It's quite the project that's probably going to take a years and years. The next couple of miles is due to open 2011.
So,(to tie back into the thread...) short term if you're worried about the commute, I wouldn't be looking north, but anyone thinking long term it might be a good investment. :~) D
So how is the commute east/west on the 90? Does the bad weather cause many accidents or do people have some sense and slow it down? In Maine, I'd have to say the majority were quite sensible on the freeway during snowy conditions. I cannot say the same for those idiots in Massachusetts (sorry to anyone from the Boston area, but it's true!!)!!
Is there much in the way of commute gridlock? Or is the traffic pretty steady, even during the peak hours?
Personally, I prefer to drive on the arterials in town instead of I-90, but then I like to drive slowly even if it takes a little longer to get somewhere. The speed limit on I-90 is 60 through town and goes up to 70 in the valley and then again to 70 once you head towards Cheney - I'm not sure the exact point it changes over. Traffic is worst in the early morning and then again from 4-6 in the afternoon. Even at its worst, you won't have the backups and stop and go traffic that is so common in bigger cities. Accidents are possible anytime - most people try to drive safely when the weather gets bad. You just need to be cautious and keep a safe distance. I think that's why I prefer driving in town - I can take back roads where there's less traffic and still get to the same destination.
90 west of town most of the time is fine--if there are problems it's usually due to drifting snow. When we lived out west of town we USUALLY didn't have problems with 90 or Hwy 2 (more problems with it once west of the base than with 90)--if we had problems, we'd usually just wait a bit and then tuck in behind a plow going our way. The problems were usually with the roads off 90 and Hwy 2. But, again, nothing we couldn't deal with.
The majority of the drivers do ok...and with your northeast experience, you will, too.
Now if you want to talk snow driving horror stories, let me tell you about the time I was in Nashville and it snowed roughly 1/2 inch...
Lupine91, I am envious of you! My husband is also USAF, but he is full-time Guard (AGR). We grew up in Spokane, and my hubby served at Fairchild for a couple years. We would love to be able to move back there soon and raise our family there (we have a 4 year old daughter and a 12 week old daughter). We're just waiting for an AGR to open up in his field there. Best wishes in your move!
We came to Spokane on military orders in Aug of 08. We are a little different bcs my hubby is active duty Marine, so he is stationed in town at the Reserve unit on the NW side. We looked at all surrounding areas (from Coeur d'Alene to the areas surrounding the base and all of Spokane) prior to coming out here (we were in NC 8yrs before we landed here). I have two school aged boys, so schools were very important to me. We were very blessed to end up in a great neighborhood and school that are less than two miles from the Reserve facility. We absolutely love NW Spokane! I am in love with the school (Indian Trail) and the community! My kids were fortunate to start as "new" kids at the beginning of a school year, but I will say that there have been children that "come and go" during the year and our school has always been welcoming to everyone. We've never felt treated any differently for being "military" except that people say they will be sad when we have to leave. I think the main thing to consider when selecting the school for your children is that you feel good about the school (environment, test scores, etc-research what is important to you).
Of the Marines that are stationed here with my husband, some live northside, some live in the Valley and some live out in Airway Heights and on the base. I think it is so much about the community you want to live in at the end of the day.
For us the weather was a shocker. I'm sure you've heard about last winter. Snow was almost non-existent in Coastal Carolina, so we had an adjustment here. My kids loved it! Thanks to the Subaru my husband bought me, I managed to not feel trapped-lol. Now this winter, my kids are begging for more snow-we've only had one that really amounted to anything so far (just last week). Our family joke is "this weather isn't normal", because we have heard that a lot since we moved here. I would be prepared for cold when you get here in Feb., but also not be surprised if it fluctuates at times too.
We are not faced with the commute to Fairchild, except when I travel to the commisary. It takes me about 25-30 minutes and I choose to go through the back roads and avoid Maple/Ash and I-90 completely. We also use the back roads when we have to go to the airport and Airway Heights (the Pop Warner football fields are out there). I have to admit I didn't travel those roads during the heavy snow last winter, but I do have a friend that also works in Airway Heights and lives around the corner from me, who does the drive every day and she manages just fine. I don't know what her commute time has been this last week in the more inclement weather, but I know she has been allowing herself extra time in the mornings.
As far as the new corridor goes, when it is done, it will travel down from the Mead area and run more parallel to Market down to the 90...so really that wouldn't help with the drive from NW Spokane down to I-90 and I wouldn't expect it to be done for several more years (at the least). (for those interested: WSDOT - US 395 North Spokane Corridor - Corridor Map ) (sorry I just saw some else posted a link too, but I'll just lv this)
Will you get a chance to do some house and area hunting before you make the move? There are so many wonderful schools and areas and being able to drive around and "see it" gives a good feel too.
I do agree that Airway Heights has all your basic needs (Starbucks, Walmart, fast food). It is more of a "plains" feel out that way, but you can find open living with acreage as well as neighborhoods of homes that are all close in. I feel Medical Lake is a bit more "sleepy" as someone mentioned...again with a "plains" feel but less amenities, but some want a small town feel. NW Spokane is very green- we are close to the state park too, so easy access to lots of trails for hiking, biking, sledding (if your family enjoys those activities). South Hill has beautiful old charm- lots of old homes that have been lovingly updated. In the Valley, you still can get more house for your money right now, but there are great deals everywhere, so again, I think you need to find the kind of environment you most want to live in.
I will say that having a "military" mind-set and knowing we won't be here forever, I personally in my heart have found that after being here over a year, if the USMC "magically" found a way for us to stay until my husband retired, I would be thrilled to stay and raise my kids here. I like it that much! If you need anymore insight from a fellow military family, please don't hesitate to contact me. I wish you all the best!
I have lived here all of my life except for going away for college, and Spokane is a wonderful place to raise a family. In general, going far north, far east, or far south are the better or more highly sought out neighborhoods. Considering that you are in the military, it may be necessary for you to sell your house quickly, and I think you will have better luck with these areas.
In the far north, I would recommend the Mead School District or as mentioned by someone else Indian Trail, 5 mile. The commute might take 30 minutes, but one thing I have always learned is that people in Spokane say the commute is bad, but when compared to other larger cities, it is really not bad at all. The North/South freeway is still quite a long way from completion and really shouldn't be a concern as far as your commute is considered. Your husband will probably take a more residential route to Fairchild back by Spokane Falls Community College from the north.
As far as the south hill is concerned, I highly recommend it. I have lived here my whole life. I recommend some areas more than others. I would look into houses that are in the boundaries for Mullan Road, Moran Prairie, and Wilson elementary schools, perhaps even Jefferson. There are many other schools on the hill, but these are by far the most sought after schools. One thing about Spokane is that there are quite a number of Title I schools, which means higher eligibiltiy of free and reduced lunches. That may not be a concern to you and you may like more diversity. I have taught in these schools, and the students are fabulous but do have a great deal to overcome from their home situation. I realize that this sounds like a blanket statement, but I know that there are wonderful families that attend Title I schools. I am just throwing this information out to you in hopes of providing you with a bigger picture.
Something to think about is the amount you can spend on a home. The areas I have listed have higher priced homes, which for Spokane can mean $150,000 and up (a nice 3 bedroom/2 bath home usually starts around $200,000 in these areas, at least the last time I checked). Our housing market isn't bad compared to some areas, but if you are trying to live off of one income, that may be a concern.
I think your longest commute would be from the far valley, as I-90 can get busy during rush hour. There are some nice newer developments out there though. It just depends on what you want.
I am not a huge fan of Medical Lake, Airway Heights, and Cheney areas. I think what people have mentioned in terms of smaller town and not as many ammenities is correct. I don't know very many people that area actively choosing to move to these areas that live in Spokane. Once again, I think it depends on what you want.
I hear most often that Spokane is a larger town with a small town feel, and I think that is accurate.
I could go on more about other areas, but I hope this gives you some more information to ponder.
This info has been really helpful. It is so hard to imagine the realities of someplace new without actually being there. We will not have the opportunity to visit Spokane before we move. We fly in, check in at Fairchild Lodging, and immediately start exploring the area and house hunting. We'll get in touch with a Realtor sometime this month to have some homes ready for us to see when we arrive.
Right now, my vision of Spokane and surrounding areas is confined to the limitations of Google Maps. Thank goodness for "Street View" so I can check out neighborhoods when I find a home for sale that interests me.
We go back and forth about areas every single day. It will honestly have to wait for our arrival, and we see these places in person. Airway Heights/Cheney seem ok...and the short commute to base and commissary are very big selling points, but we are a "out and about" kind of family. We shop, we go to museums and parks, we are accustomed to having amenities nearby. So once I've convinced myself that being close to base is the right thing, I look at the map again, and realize we might be happier further from base, but closer to Spokane, and my internal arguments start over again! LOL..it's impossible to decide anything until we are there!
I appreciate all the info on Spokane traffic. Having lived in Los Angeles for 7 years, I doubted any amount of traffic could rival my husband's former commute on the 405. That was bumper to bumper, an hour of frustration for him every single day! Spokane should be a piece of cake for us.
As far as schools are concerned, at this moment, I'm so desperate to leave the Hawaiian school system, I doubt any school in Washington could be worse! I am just more concerned about the time my kids will miss while we're in transition, and the harsh reality of COLD and SNOW on their spoiled tropical dispositions! My oldest complained the other evening that she was "so cold!" because it was in the 70's! This climate change will be hardest on them. But what can we do? Not much...just jump into it!
I see this base as a long term assignment for us. At least 10+ years, so wherever we settle, it will be for the long haul. Possibly into retirement for his Air Force career. Spokane is very far from our families on the East coast, but from all I've heard, it sounds like a wonderful place to live. It sounds very "us", which is a very good thing.
I am so glad, Lupine91, that Spokane sounds to you to be "very us." That is a good feeling to have heading into it.
I hope we can get there soon with my hubby based at Fairchild as an AGR in the Air Force. He was stationed there active duty at one time since we are actually from that area, but we are currently in the Boise area where he is stationed. Crossing our fingers (in the way of prayer) that we get there soon and then forever to raise our family!
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