March 28, 1998 in City

Redevelopment Foes Sue Against Downtown Plan Want Permit Voided, Demand Environmental Impact Check

By The Spokesman-Review
 

With the City Council preparing for its second hearing in three days on the River Park Square redevelopment, opponents filed a new lawsuit Friday to stop the project.

Meanwhile, a group of businesses and residents said they have formed an organization to support the redevelopment.

New attorneys for the Spokane Research and Defense Fund asked Spokane County Superior Court to void the $110 million project’s building permit and order an environmental impact statement on the likely effects of the project.

Such a study would create delays that developers have said would kill the project.

The suit also asks the court to order the release of all documents regarding the project. Some information, such as the details of the lease for major tenant Nordstrom, has been given to council members but kept from the public because developers say it is proprietary.

The fund “is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to ensuring that proper public process and procedures are followed,” says the lawsuit, prepared by David Bricklin and Michael Gendler of Seattle.

The fund has the right to sue because its members “use and enjoy the environment which will be affected by the proposed project,” the suit adds.

The defense fund is headed by Spokane attorney Steve Eugster, who has waged a series of court battles over the project. Bricklin, the former president of the Washington Environmental Council, and Gendler are specialists in environmental law.

“The City of Spokane is denying the environmental significance of this project, shielding information from the public and subverting the public process,” Bricklin said in announcing the lawsuit.

They are suing the City of Spokane, Lincoln Investment Co. and Citizens Realty Co., the companies that own River Park Square, the project’s contractors and Nordstrom, the project’s anchor tenant.

Lincoln Investment and Citizens Realty are subsidiaries of Cowles Publishing Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

Eugster’s organization says the city made a series of mistakes in approving the building permit. It should have studied other alternatives to building the project, should have prepared an environmental statement and didn’t consider the combined effects of other possible projects, such as the proposed Lincoln Street bridge.

Eugster filed an appeal of the revised building permit, which the city denied last week. Changes in the project are not significant, city attorneys said, and the courts had already ruled against a previous environmental challenge.

Duane Swinton, an attorney for the developers, who is named as a defendant in the suit, said Friday he doesn’t believe the group can win its case. The state Supreme Court has already ruled the city followed the proper procedure in approving the permit.

“The city acted correctly and they have no grounds to challenge this,” Swinton said. “When you challenge a building permit, it has to be related to the Uniform Building Code.”

A group calling itself Positively Spokane announced Friday it had brought together more than 100 individuals and businesses “dedicated to the vitality and redevelopment of downtown Spokane.”

The coalition includes small businesses, neighborhood activists and people who both support and opposed the Lincoln Street bridge project, said Chris Marr of the group’s steering committee. All members want the council to approve a loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which might be final in the coming weeks.

“For the average citizen, this decision has little to do with technical language in a HUD document,” Marr said. “It has everything to do with our hopes and vision for a strong, healthy downtown.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

COUNCIL MEETING

The City Council will have a special meeting at 2 p.m. today in the council chambers in City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

This sidebar appeared with the story: COUNCIL MEETING The City Council will have a special meeting at 2 p.m. today in the council chambers in City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

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