City Needs Slice Of Contested Land Bridge Project Requires Piece Of Ronalds’ Riverfront Property
The city of Spokane needs a little help from Steve and Leslie Ronald to build the controversial Lincoln Street bridge.
Two hundred square feet of help, to be exact.
“We need a little sliver of about 200 square feet from the Ronalds,” said Phil Williams, the city’s director of planning and engineering services. “It’s a pretty small, insignificant amount of land.”
Steve Ronald was shocked to learn Wednesday the same city that has been on-again, off-again, on-again about condemning his riverfront land now needs at least a thin strip on the eastern edge.
“I’m kind of dumbfounded at the strange twists this thing is taking,” Ronald said. “All of a sudden they would like to have it, sounds like they need it.
“I bet they don’t want us to know that.”
The Ronalds’ attorney, Mike Maurer, said city officials haven’t said anything to him about needing the land. “They have never told us that before,” he said. “I’ll be darned.”
The Ronalds planned to build a seven-story condominium complex on the 1.34-acre property, but the council voted to condemn the site in 1995 to save the view of the falls from the downtown Spokane library.
Attorneys for the city and the Ronalds tried for two years to negotiate a selling price, but eventually left the decision to a jury.
After a six-day trial last April, jurors decided the Ronalds’ land was worth $2.184 million - nearly 50 times the value set by one appraiser hired by the city.
City Manager Bill Pupo and several council members discussed walking away from the condemnation, saying the city couldn’t afford the jury’s price tag. But the city’s attorneys convinced them to appeal the jury’s ruling.
Three council members reached Wednesday said they didn’t know how the need for the land might affect the condemnation proceedings or the city’s desire to negotiate a settlement.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen at this point,” said Councilman Orville Barnes, who admitted it was a strange twist of events.
“It only just came up and ever so briefly,” said Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes. “It’s just something we’ve been made aware of.”
Mayor Jack Geraghty said commenting on the issue would be “premature.”
Pupo was equally noncommittal.
“I just found out about that recently, two or three weeks ago,” Pupo said. “It’s still under review.”
About two months ago, engineers discovered the bridge design creeps onto the Ronalds’ land, said Jim Correll of CH2M Hill. Discrepancies between survey notes and plat maps left an “overlap where the bridge sits and the corner of the Ronalds’ property.”
The bridge is being shoehorned between City Hall and the couple’s land, Williams said. “It’s a huge bridge, so until we got into more detailed scoping, it was hard to say for certain where it would land.”
The discovery won’t postpone the project, Williams said. “I don’t see anything delaying it. I’m not sure I see it as a big deal. It’s such a small piece.”
The news does make discussions about acquiring the land more crucial, he said.
Buying the Ronalds’ property also is a condition of a settlement the city reached last year with attorney Steve Eugster, who sued to stop the Lincoln Street bridge from being built. Eugster wanted the city to preserve open spaces near the bridge.
Eugster has vowed to take the city back to court to enforce the agreement if necessary.
Meanwhile, the city did get some good news about the Lincoln Street bridge project.
State officials agreed late last month to increase their total contribution for the project to $4 million.
That leaves the city $1.53 million short of the project’s $36 million estimated cost. The city is pursuing federal money to come up with the balance.
For weeks, rumors have volleyed about City Hall concerning whether money problems might squelch the bridge. That’s not the case, said officials familiar with the project.
“I haven’t heard that from anybody that counted,” Williams said. “We’re charging ahead.”
“We expect to have the project fully funded,” said Brad Blegen, bridge project manager.
Not building the bridge would create problems, Williams said.
The city recently vacated the one-block section of Post Street between Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main for the redevelopment of the River Park Square shopping center, Williams said. Plus, the Post Street bridge is crumbling and needs to be torn down.
He said the city has two choices if the Lincoln Street bridge isn’t built: rebuild the Post Street bridge, leaving the existing stop-and-go traffic patterns, or add lanes to the Monroe Street bridge so that it could handle more traffic.
“It’s not a pretty sight,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of area
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Bridge costs The Lincoln Street bridge project is expected to cost about $36 million, and $1.53 million is still needed. City officials hope the federal government will pay the balance. Money committed so far includes: $23.43 million from federal bridge replacement and transportation dollars. $4 million from state transportation dollars. $5.6 million from a state public works trust fund loan the city will repay with local gas tax revenue. $1.44 million in additional local gas tax money.
This sidebar appeared with the story: Bridge costs The Lincoln Street bridge project is expected to cost about $36 million, and $1.53 million is still needed. City officials hope the federal government will pay the balance. Money committed so far includes: $23.43 million from federal bridge replacement and transportation dollars. $4 million from state transportation dollars. $5.6 million from a state public works trust fund loan the city will repay with local gas tax revenue. $1.44 million in additional local gas tax money.