The city of Spokane plans to try to block a move by a nonprofit group to intervene in a city-state dispute over the proposed Lincoln Street bridge.
Last week, the grass-roots organization Friends of the Falls filed a motion to intervene in the city’s appeal of the state’s denial of a shoreline permit for the bridge.
The state Department of Ecology turned down a shoreline permit for the project in January, saying the bridge proposal violates the city’s shoreline management plan.
The city has appealed Ecology’s decision to the Shoreline Hearings Board. City and Ecology officials recently agreed to try to reach a settlement on the shoreline issue.
Stan Schwartz, assistant city attorney, told the council during Monday’s briefing that the group’s intervention could increase the cost of the appeal and “broaden the scope of the hearing way beyond the scope of the Department of Ecology’s ruling.”
Schwartz filed a motion with the hearings board on Monday objecting to the groups’ involvement in the appeal. He plans to argue his position before the board in a pre-hearing meeting in Olympia today.
Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers asked that the council vote on whether to proceed with the city’s motion during the Monday meeting, saying the public had a right to comment.
“I look at this as a free speech issue,” Rodgers said.
But Rodgers’ request to move the issue to a vote Monday night won only Mayor John Talbott’s support.
The balance of the council members disagreed, with Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes saying: “It’s up to the elected officials” to make the decision.
In the motion filed last week, the Friends of the Falls argued the project would add a bridge across the river without removing one, and would destroy the river’s natural features - two violations of the shoreline management plan.
Schwartz countered in the city’s motion that the nonprofit group had no standing to intervene because “most of the members of this special interest group are not residents of Spokane.”
By adding more issues to the appeal, the group increased “Spokane’s burden at the hearing by opening a floodgate of additional concerns,” the motion states.
The group also asks for attorney’s fees if the city’s appeal fails, further adding to taxpayers’ costs, Schwartz said.
Former state Sen. John Moyer said that, as far as he knew, all the group’s 100 members lived in Spokane County.
Also Monday, the council approved Talbott’s request for a city car.
Most mayors, excluding Talbott’s predecessor Jack Geraghty, have driven a car at taxpayers’ expense.
Council members voted unanimously to spend $18,640 to buy and pay related expenses for a Ford Contour.
In an unusual twist, two Spokane residents who often criticized city spending supported the expenditure, saying Talbott’s job requires daily travel for the city.
Allan LeTourneau described the money as a “legitimate investment.”
Talbott assured the public he would use the car to represent the public. “I’ll try not to use it to go to the health club to play racquetball, unless I’m on my way to a meeting,” he said.
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