Owners of prime Spokane riverfront property filed law Thursday alleging the city repeatedly has blocked their development plans in an attempt to preserve a panoramic view from the downtown library.
Steve and Leslie Ronald are asking the city for damages “in excess of $3 million,” according to Spokane County District Court documents.
“They’ve stonewalled them at every turn,” said their attorney, Mike Maurer.
The Ronalds want to build a seven-story condominum complex on their slice of land overlooking Spokane Falls, just north of the downtown library.
Hours after the lawsuit was filed, City Councilman Joel Crosby announced the city is forging ahead with plans to buy the property.
Crosby, joined by Councilwoman Bev Numbers, held a news conference on the third floor of the library, just a few feet from the wall of windows overlooking the falls.
The pair vowed to do what they can to “preserve the gorgeous views.” Crosby called the Ronalds’ lawsuit “pure, unmitigated greed.”
“The city has dealt in good faith,” Crosby said. “It is outrageous for them to respond with a $3 million lawsuit.”
Two years ago, Crosby was the only council member wanting to buy the 1.4-acre property. Now, a council awed by the library’s view is certain to go after the property, he said.
On Monday, the council will vote whether to accept a $600,000 federal grant specifically earmarked to preserve the view for the Lincoln Street bridge project.
That, combined with $50,000 each from the library and park budgets, allows the city to offer $700,000 for the site.
Maurer said his clients need more than $1 million just to recoup the money they’ve put into the land and design plans. Add that to constant delays and frustration, coupled with the profit the Ronalds had expected, and you come up with the lawsuit’s price tag, he said.
When the couple proposed the project in 1987, the city cheered the Ronalds’ plans to build a 70-foot condominium tower along the steep slope between City Hall and the Monroe Street Bridge.
They didn’t actively pursue a building permit until February 1993, partly because of financing delays and partly because it’s a difficult site to plan.
From there, the couple ran into obstacle after obstacle, they said, with the city raising new issues that needed to be addressed before a building permit could be issued.
The city said that’s just not the case.
“We’ve gone out of our way to make this project possible,” said Crosby, who added that if the condominium plan were viable, it would have been built years ago.
Disputes over shoreline permits and sewer lines have added to delays, city officials said.
Numbers said the city might consider condemning the property if it can’t reach an agreement with the Ronalds.
“That would be the next step,” she said.
“We may just have to take the offensive,” Crosby said.