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Ponderosa development proposal upsets neighbors

Fri., June 11, 2004

A packed, 179-home development is in the works for the Ponderosa neighborhood just one week after residents pleaded with Spokane Valley’s City Council for the right to preserve acre lots.

The homes, proposed by developer Lanzce Douglass, would be built along a steep draw in the southwestern corner of the Ponderosa neighborhood, which is now a popular hiking spot with neighbors.

The project would result in five to six homes per acre in a neighborhood where a week ago residents were pleading for rules allowing no more than one home per acre lot.

The request for more space is counter to current city zoning rules for the neighborhood, which allow slightly more than six homes an acre.

Douglass did not return calls to his office over four working days.

His would-be neighbors have begun passing out fliers opposing the development.

“He wants 179 homes in that area? That’s unbelievable,” said Ron Oman, a Ponderosa resident who lives downhill from the proposed development.

“That’s not compatible with what this neighborhood is all about.”

The southern reaches of Ponderosa that adjoin the project are peppered with upper-class and middle-class homes on large manicured lawns of an acre or more.

Evergreens blanket the roughly 30-year-old neighborhood. On the neighborhood’s busiest street, 44th Avenue, joggers and dog walkers share the road with infrequent traffic.

There’s a deer and llama farm to the north and the Dishman Hills Natural area to the northeast.

Neighbors might get the one-home, one-acre zoning they requested from Spokane Valley. Until the new rule is on the books, developers will be allowed to build six homes per acre, which neighbors say is a fire hazard.

Homes in the neighborhood have been threatened, and some burned, by forest fires in 1987 and 1991.

Oman and his neighbors worry that 179 more homes would make evacuation impossible, if fire comes again. Fire District 8, which services the neighborhood, is also concerned.

“I’m concerned with the density and the wildfire-urban interface. Water is a big issue to us, also,” said Dan Blystone, interim chief of Fire District 8.

“But as a fire district, we cannot stand in the way of development. We can only make it as safe as the law allows.”

There isn’t enough water pressure to service the project now, said Ty Wick, of Spokane County Water District 3, though water is available. The developer would have to build a holding tank above the project and pump water to into it to create the necessary water pressure. Similar tanks service the existing Ponderosa neighborhood, Wick said, but they’re too low in elevation to service Douglass’ proposed development.

Planning officials are just beginning to evaluate the proposal. The project straddles the city-county boundary. Each government branch will review its portion separately. Douglass has applied to develop 82 homes on the Spokane Valley portion, but hasn’t applied to develop the remainder in Spokane County.

Ponderosa neighbors will likely get their first chance to comment on the project in the next few weeks, as Douglass formulates a required traffic study. Neighborhood meetings are a required study element.

Residents opposed to the project say Ponderosa roads linking the area to four-lane Dishman-Mica Road will be overrun with traffic if the development goes through; however, traffic counts by Spokane County engineers suggest that primary roads out of the neighborhood could handle another 4,600 trips, or more. At this point, engineers don’t know how much traffic the development will produce.


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