Would-be developers at the edge of Glenrose Prairie are mired in legalities as thick as the mud from the washouts that damaged their property.
A year ago, the Spokane County commissioners decided to exclude the developers’ 35 acres from suburban-style housing under the emerging growth management plan.
About the same time, repeated storms sent torrents of water across the land and left deep gouges on the sloping property.
Now, the developers are suing the county, seeking $1.6 million in damages to compensate them for the erosion and loss of development potential.
They argue the county caused the erosion when it put a storm pipe under Glenrose Road and sent excess runoff onto their property.
A portion of the land lies in a draw on the north side of Browne Mountain.
The owners have proposed building as many as 100 homes on the site.
“We don’t like suing people,” said Al Payne, one of the owners involved in the development at the base of Browne Mountain. “We want a solution.”
The lawsuit was filed last November. The plaintiffs include Payne and his wife, Patricia; Dale and Deanna Bright; Carl and Ann Bernson; and Glenrose Associates 91, a general partnership.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Durkin said the demand for $1.6 million is exorbitant.
“We are trying to work it out,” he said. “We think their claim is grossly inflated.”
The property owners’ fight over the erosion is just one of the legal battles they face.
Several years ago, the Spokane City Council voted to annex 100 acres at the western edge of Glenrose Prairie, which would include the 35 acres involved in the erosion lawsuit.
The Glenrose Community Association sued the city over the annexation and won in Superior Court. Now, that lawsuit is on appeal in state court.
In another battle, the Glenrose property owners joined a challenge of the interim growth boundaries set by the county commissioners last year under the growth management law.
The appellants sought to have their property included in the urban area so it could be developed at a higher density.
A regional hearing board ruled that the county failed to provide enough evidence of population to justify the urban growth boundaries it has proposed.
Because of the lawsuits and uncertainty over growth boundaries, the future of the land on Glenrose Prairie remains in doubt.
“It’s going to be an ongoing saga,” said Durkin.
Residents who like the semirural character of the area say a ridgeline to the west of Glenrose Prairie makes a natural border for higher-density urban development.
“The people out here are pretty much of a like mind. They like the open spaces,” said Dick Boge, a member of the Glenrose Community Association.
Payne said he believes the county commissioners kept his Glenrose property outside of the urban boundary to hold down the value of the land. By doing so, they also minimized the value of the erosion damages, he said.
Commissioners have said the urban boundaries were drawn solely to contain higher-density growth and reduce demand for expanded services like schools, roads, sewers and water lines.
County officials also said they are working on a long-range plan for solving stormwater problems in southeast Spokane, which should stop erosion on the Glenrose property.
“This is not a problem that is singular to Mr. Payne and his group,” Durkin said.