August 8, 1996 in Washington Voices

City May Block Development Planned Near Downriver

By The Spokesman-Review

A hunk of land surrounded by pine forest and river rapids could be turned into idyllic home sites for 16 families, but not if Spokane park officials can prevent it.

Private developers want to build a small residential neighborhood on 2.5 acres near Downriver Golf Course.

“Who wouldn’t want to live in the middle of a park?” said Bruce Winer, agent for the developers.

The Spokane Parks Department, that’s who.

The Park Board today will consider a motion to deny a wider easement to the land. The easement appears critical to any attempt to build homes.

The park board meeting is at 1:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

The land is within the boundaries of a city conservation area between the T.J. Meenach Bridge and Riverside State Park.

Last week, the Park Board land committee voted 4-0 to deny an easement so the developers could cross the park land to build the proposed homes.

“The bottom line is the parks department wants the property,” said Winer, who asked the land committee to grant the easement so his clients can build the homes.

He declined to identify the developers, who earlier this year obtained a purchase agreement from the current land owner, Dr. Hrair Garabedian.

The land is the site of the former Riverpark Convalescent Center, which burned in 1991. After the fire, the property fell into receivership and Garabedian bought it for $215,000 a year ago.

At the time, the city was given a chance to buy the land, but couldn’t come up with the money.

Now, city officials have discovered enough money in a small property tax collection held by county officials for the purchase of conservation land. Garabedian would sell to the city for $250,000.

Last week, the City Council approved a purchase agreement with Garabedian, but the city’s agreement could only be executed if the private developers drop their plans and abandon their purchase rights.

By denying the easement, the Park Board could force the developers out of the deal, and thereby, leave a clear path for the city’s purchase.

Park Board member Carl Boston said he wants to hear from members of the public today on what they think the city should do.

“We are just an arm of the public and we are trying to preserve it (the 2.5 acres) just the way it is,” Boston said.

Park Board member Dennis Hession said, “The Park Board has a long history of trying to protect the shore northwest of downtown.”

Currently, the developers own a 15-foot easement across the park land, but that is too narrow to meet the fire safety minimum of a 20-foot street. Winer said the developers would like a 60-foot easement.

Without the 20-foot easement, the city building officials are not likely to approve development permits.

The developers could seek a variance from the minimum street width, but getting a variance appears unlikely, officials said, because public safety is involved.

The street-width minimum is contained in the nation’s uniform code for fire safety.

“Right now, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of options,” Winer said.

Paul Crutchfield, assistant to the parks director, said, “We would maintain it in perpetuity as conservation land.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of area

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email