Lake Spokane neighbors remember Len Miotke as the guy who saved this long curl of water for the bass, the perch and his kids.
Between daily casts off his porch, Miotke sued the city to stop it from dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into the lake. Blooms of lethal algae have now cleared; today the water is as clean as ever.
“You can’t think of Lake Spokane today and not think of Len Miotke,” said lake dweller Estelle West. “I guess you could say he saved the lake.”
But two of the conservationist’s four children are now planning to sell part of his sprawling estate to a developer who would build houses on the rural land.
The proposal has divided the family and angered neighbors, who fear the fragile health of the reservoir, also known as Long Lake, will be harmed by development. That, they say, would tarnish the legacy of Miotke, who died three years ago from cancer.
“In the experiences I had with him over 30 years, he’d come walking right out of his grave over this,” said Delroy Preston, a longtime friend.
The proposed 13-home development sits on land Miotke deeded to his two oldest children, Mike and Sandi, as an inheritance.
All four children decline to talk about family business, but jump at the chance to reminisce about their father. The oldest pair say their dad’s good business sense would appreciate the plan. They remember the maps of possible parcels he drew on the back of napkins.
“He intended that to be a nice housing development so a lot of people could enjoy the land,” said daughter Sandi Toon. “He never intended it to be just vacant land.”
The two youngest each live on 20 acres adjacent to the proposed development and are opposed, saying their father would want the land left rural.
“I think he would be stunned if it got through,” said daughter Lourie Yancey. “It would very much sadden him. He fought for the lake and wildlife very strongly.”
Misty Miotke, the youngest daughter, hopes to keep the land wild. “I thank heaven, I thank God, I thank dad, every day that I live here,” said Miotke, watching a blue heron fly over the lake.
The 13 plots - between one and six acres - proposed for the Sportsman Paradise development would seem spacious by urban standards. Building plans include wide swaths of untouched habitat for the Western bluebird and a lakeside buffer zone for blue heron nests.
But the vocal and numerous opponents of the plan, filed by developer Jim Schoefield, shudder to think of fingers of suburban development digging into the lakeshore. Ten-acre plots here are considered small and horseback riders are free to cut across their neighbors’ land.
Schoefield has bought the land, contingent upon his request for rezoning. His plan requires changing the land from an agricultural designation, limiting homesteads to 10 acres or more, to a suburban class of one home per five acres.
The homes could be clustered on smaller lots under the rules of a planned unit development.
A public hearing is scheduled for later next month, but the public file in the Spokane County Division of Building and Planning is already as thick as a fence post.
The file includes several complaints. The Department of Ecology is concerned about the possibility of destroying wetlands. Neighbors fear the bald eagles, heron and ducks that nest nearby will shy away.
Schoefield says he is trying to be sensitive to the lake and its residents. The lots, which will cost at least $100,000 apiece, will include sweet grasses and rosebushes for deer to graze on. His habitat plan satisfied the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Currently, the land is wild and poorly maintained.
“The reason for the smaller lots is there are people who want to live out in the country but not maintain the equipment for 5- to 10-acre parcels,” said Schoefield, who lives on the land slated for development.
Len Miotke is responsible for much of the idyllic atmosphere, say longtime friends.
He and his wife Lovetta sued the city in 1977 after learning it was routinely flushing millions of gallons of raw sewage upstream. The lake smelled like a port-a-potty in the summer, neighbors said.
Twenty other lake dwellers eventually joined the suit. Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke banned the city from further dumps and, in 1980, awarded Miotke and the others $368,600 in damages and legal fees.
A decade later, as his health was failing, Miotke helped persuade local governments to ban sales of laundry detergents with phosphates. The ban eventually was picked up statewide.
“If he believed it, he fought for it real hard,” said Tuter. “He was quite a man.”
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