Land Swap Put On Hold By State Officials Say Hearing Raised Concerns That Need Checking
A hotly contested land swap at Riverside and Mount Spokane state parks was delayed Tuesday for at least two months.
But Washington parks officials remain convinced that trading 295 acres at Riverside for 160 acres atop Quartz Mountain is in the public’s best environmental and economic interests.
A public hearing Monday night drew more than 100 opponents, mostly Nine Mile residents who don’t want to lose their forested buffer at Riverside and see the property developed.
They raised numerous concerns that need “double-checking,” said Dick Fankhauser, chief of site planning for the state Parks and Recreation Commission.
He and other staff members decided Tuesday to pull the land swap off the commission’s agenda for its next meeting April 21 in Vancouver.
The soonest it could be raised again is June 16, but Fankhauser said it probably will be later.
The 295 acres lie just outside Riverside’s northwest boundary at Nine Mile. The state, in keeping with a Spokane task force’s 1979 recommendation, wants to trade the land for Quartz Mountain.
Three individuals own the 160-acre section, but Kirkland, Wash., developer Mike Mitchell has an option to buy the parcel.
Both properties involved in the swap are worth $875,000, although Fankhauser conceded that $535,000 of Quartz Mountain’s value is in mineral deposits.
Nine Mile residents claim the state has undervalued the timber at Riverside while inflating Quartz Mountain’s worth.
Quartz Mountain is a major private tract that lies in the middle of Mount Spokane State Park and is the key to expanding cross-country ski trails, Fankhauser said.
Mitchell, the developer, referred most questions to his attorney, but the 32-year-old principal in Wildlife Land & Holding Co. said he never has logged or developed his investments within Washington state.
“I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m a good guy,” Mitchell said. “I don’t like clearcuts any more than anyone else.”
Drayton Wear, a spokesman for a Nine Mile homeowners group, said the delay in voting for the swap is nothing more than the state covering its backside.
“We feel they’re supposed to be representing us, but they’re going out of their way to justify this at any expense,” he said.