October 16, 1997

1906 Plat Skirts Modern Setback Rule

By The Spokesman-Review
 

In 1906, A.J. Page paid $13.20 to file a plat at the Spokane County Courthouse. The plan outlined 40 waterfront lots on Silver Lake.

Ninety years later, developers Greg Yost, Jim Markley and Matt Smith were contacted by the family that owned the never-built plan. The partners dusted off the plat and brought it back to life.

Now, with the addition of modern conveniences, including paved roads, phone service, power and gas, the lots are ready to sell.

But one modern feature is missing: the 200-foot setbacks required by the state and county to protect natural areas.

Because the land was platted long ago, it is “grandfathered” in.

“If the same subdivision were platted at today’s standards, there would be a 200-foot setback from the waterfront to the house,” said Yost.

“Since these requirements don’t apply to Silver Lake Addition, docks, grass, beach, other improvements are all allowed,” said Yost.

Houses can be built just 50 feet back from the lake edge, Yost contends.

John Pederson, senior planner for Spokane County, said unbuilt plats from the 1900s aren’t unheard of. “There are a lot of plats, for example, around Liberty Lake,” he said. “There may be reasons they haven’t been built.”

Pederson suggests people buying a lot anywhere check with the planning department to make sure they can obtain a building permit for the lot. “Just because it’s platted doesn’t mean it’s buildable,” he said.

Rudy Kitzan, a land surveyor working with Yost, found yet another twist to the old plat.

In 1938, the courts ruled that the property lines for many of the lots go out to the middle of the lake.

Although the land under the lake is technically theirs, they can’t build a fence across the water or shoo away boaters, said Yost.

“This is a new one,” said Kitzan. “Typically, these things are pretty straightforward.”

The lake bed was actually farmed at the turn of the century. In 1907, irrigators pumped the lake to water orchards between Medical Lake and Cheney.

By 1923, the lake had been pumped down 60 feet. As the water receded, the lake bottom was claimed by property owners.

The lake is now fully recovered and returned to its natural state.

Water-skiing and fishing are popular pastimes for Silver Lake visitors and residents.

Prices for the lake-view lots start at under $40,000.

“That’s phenomenal for true lake frontage,” said Yost.

He and his partners are trying to sell lots quickly to pay off a construction loan. Prices could be higher next spring on any lots that remain.

“We’ll re-evaluate the lot prices once the loan is paid,” said Yost.

, DataTimes


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