The Valley’s Painted Hills subdivision can grow by six more houses, despite concerns about how those newcomers would get off the hill during an emergency, two county commissioners decided Tuesday.
Bill Barry, whose own home is near the end of Apache Pass Road, first asked to develop 20 lots on his 165 acres in 1993.
The request was denied, with commissioners saying they didn’t want any more houses in the neighborhood until there were more access roads.
On Tuesday, Barry asked to extend Apache Pass and develop six 10-acre lots near his own larger one. The proposal includes a rough road out the back side of the development, leading to state Highway 27.
The dirt road, which already threads across Barry’s steep and heavily forested land, would be used only for emergencies.
Fire District 8 officials wrote in a letter to the county that the district would not object to the subdivision if the road were maintained well enough to accommodate its equipment.
Commissioners John Roskelley and Phil Harris supported the subdivision.
“I think when the fire department comes out and says this is as good as any plan, we ought to support it,” said Roskelley, a volunteer firefighter for Fire District 9 in northern Spokane County.
Commissioner Steve Hasson voted no.
Hasson was a first-term commissioner in 1991, when fire destroyed 15 houses in the nearby Ponderosa neighborhood, jumped Dishman-Mica Road, and charged toward Painted Hills before volunteers and firefighters stopped the blaze.
The day before Firestorm ‘91, commissioners had approved 13 new houses in Ponderosa. Since then, Hasson has consistently voted against new lots in both subdivisions, saying they need better roads to prevent people from becoming trapped in fires.
Hasson said Barry’s “back-door” road is inadequate.
“The back door is dangerous, it’s steep, it’s windy, it’s got water problems,” Hasson said. “All you’d have to do is have a tree fall across it” to make the road impassible.
Painted Hills resident Tom Woods urged commissioners to approve the project, saying it would make the development safer. He tried to assuage Hasson’s fears that the road is too rough.
“I’d be more than happy to drive any sedan out that (road) in an emergency, to save my family,” he said.