Waco. Ruby Ridge. Spokane Valley? Maybe.
There’s a feud festering in the Carnahan neighborhood between a grouchy, foul-mouthed property owner and the federal government.
It’s ready to explode.
At the middle of the dispute is a virtually useless piece of ground near an alcohol and drug treatment center the federal government is building for young Native Americans.
Stan Sloan of Post Falls owns the 30-foot-wide strip. At one time, the property served as a community drainfield for the septic systems of the houses to the south. It’s now just vacant ground.
The United States government wants Sloan’s permission to run a water line for the Inland Tribal Consortium facility across the land and hook on to a water main in Howe Road.
Sloan installed the main more than a decade ago when he developed the property to the south.
The 58-year-old Valley native is saying no, and has vowed to fight, with violence if necessary. He’s parked a bulldozer nearby and says he’ll run over anybody he sees on the land.
“I’ll either kill them, or they’ll kill me,” Sloan said. “And I ain’t bluffing.”
People who know Sloan say he isn’t kidding.
“I look at this being another Ruby Ridge with Stan Sloan,” said Joe Ward, a developer who owns property near Sloan’s and also is fighting the government over the treatment center.
“He’s going to go to great lengths to keep those people from crossing his property,” Ward said.
Government officials say they hope the matter can be resolved with civility.
“We hope to do business with Mr. Sloan,” said Evelyn McChesney, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We would like to have an amicable settlement with Mr. Sloan.”
That’s not likely.
The center has been a source of controversy for three years, and Sloan has been right in the middle of it.
Neighbors of the project, including Sloan, protested fiercely when the government decided to locate the center on 38 acres of rocky, wooded terrain near Eighth and Carnahan.
More than 200 people signed petitions against the center and opposed the project at public hearings, saying it didn’t belong in the middle of their mostly residential neighborhood.
Proponents argued that the property was a good fit for the center, which will house 32 young people trying to recover from addictions.
It has a remote feel because of the terrain, but is near hospitals, bus lines and other services.
The current center at 1617 N. Calispel is in a commercial area with few amenities.
In 1992, county commissioners overruled a decision by the planning commission to deny the project and gave the feds permission to build the center.
A judge dismissed a lawsuit later brought by neighbors.
Now, Sloan is waging a virtual oneman battle against the facility.
He says he won’t give the government an easement across the land unless the price is right. To him, the right price is really, really high.
“It’s going to cost a bunch, a whole bunch,” Sloan said.
He said the only way he’d consider giving the government an easement is if federal officials would deed him several acres of property on the center site so he could build some houses there.
Sloan said he’d only give that offer half-hearted consideration because he’s bitter about the whole situation.
He stresses that this isn’t about Native Americans.
“I have a great deal of compassion for the Indians, and I’m ashamed of the way my ancestors treated them,” said Sloan, who added his home is decorated in a Native American theme. “But the federal government has rammed this thing down my throat and the throats of all the people who live up there.
“It’s the federal government that I’m fed up with. I’ve grown to hate them.”
His feelings intensified earlier this year when a contractor working on the center trespassed on the 30-foot strip to erect a fence on the center’s property.
Sloan called sheriff’s deputies to remove the workers from the land. The deputies took a report, but nothing more became of it.
Local and federal officials say Sloan is being unreasonable.
McChesney said the water line is needed to provide necessary pressure for the center’s fire sprinkler system.
There are other water sources in the area, but the one across from Sloan’s land is the most practical, she said.
Ty Wick, manager of Spokane County Water District No. 3, agreed. Both Sloan’s land and the treatment center are in Wick’s district.
“He’s being somewhat ridiculous to me because there’s already a sewer line in there,” Wick said. “What does a water main 10 feet away hurt? This is just his way of trying to inhibit the project.”
McChesney said the government is willing to negotiate a price for the easement.
A Spokane appraiser has been hired to assess the value of the property, said McChesney, who would not elaborate on what the government planned to offer Sloan for the land.
When Sloan found out about that, he said he contacted the appraiser and warned him to stay off his land.
“I told him anybody that goes on that property was going to get hurt,” Sloan said.
The appraiser, John McFaddin of Spokane, confirmed Sloan’s threat but said he doesn’t need to go on the land to assess its value.
McChesney said the government can get the easement through other means if need be.
She wouldn’t say how, but federal officials could condemn the land, pay Sloan what the appraiser says the land is worth and take it over without his permission.
Officials hope to open the center in December.
“It’s premature to talk about what may happen,” McChesney said.
Sloan said they better not try. His bulldozer is gassed up, and he can be at the site on a moment’s notice, he said.
“Just because it’s cheaper for them and easier for them, they think they’re going to tap into the fruits of my labor?” he said. “It ain’t going to happen.”
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