The fight over Morgan Murphy Estates on the hilltops overlooking the western end of the Spokane Valley and Glenrose Prairie continues to inch through a legal maze.
Spokane County commissioners are expected to consider the proposed 41-home development within the next several weeks now that a county hearing examiner ruled the development complies with land use laws.
If it wins final approval, the hill that flanks Sprague Avenue near Park Road could one day sprout homes with big-time views.
Ownership of the 210-acre site dates back to the founding of KXLY-TV in the early 1950s.
The station’s founders, who included crooner Bing Crosby, bought the land as a back-up site for a transmission tower, said Steve Herling, general manager of the station. A small microwave relay tower can be seen atop the hill today.
The station recently renegotiated its lease with the state for its long-standing transmission tower on Mount Spokane, leaving the Valley property as an excess asset.
The property is zoned to allow one home on every five acres, but Herling said that kind of development wouldn’t be suitable on the site because of the steep terrain in some portions. He also said he wants the development to be sensitive to the woodland environment.
KXLY has proposed a planned-unit development that would cluster the 41 homes in two sections of the property. Each home would be on a lot of about an acre, leaving about two-thirds of the land as open space.
Homes in the cluster at the crest of the hill, which peaks at an elevation of 3,050 feet, would have 270-degree views that include the Spokane Valley nearly 1,000 feet below.
“We want an environmentally sensitive, model development under the existing zoning code,” Herling said.
Residents who live on Glenrose Prairie to the southwest believe the proposal is a bad idea. They are concerned about traffic, water supplies, stormwater, seepage from sewage and other issues.
For more than a year, they’ve been fighting to stop the development and have said they are prepared to go to Superior Court if necessary.
The development was initially approved by the county’s hearing examiner committee after a public hearing more than a year ago.
But opponents, who have organized as the Glenrose Associates, appealed to county commissioners. The commissioners held their own hearing and denied the development last March.
Then the state changed land-use laws. Now, only one public hearing on the record can be held on any new land-use laws. Two public hearings were held for Morgan Murphy Estates, putting it out of conformity with state law.
That left the status of Morgan Murphy Estates in a legal limbo. To resolve the issue, county commissioners sent the case to the Spokane city hearing examiner for a decision.
City hearing examiner Greg Smith ruled the proposed development meets county land-use laws so long as developers can arrange to provide sufficient water from a nearby provider and meet other requirements. Now, the county commissioners must decide whether to accept Smith’s decision, or reconsider the case.
Regardless of the commissioners’ decision, the proposal could end up in Superior Court for the final decision, he said.