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Accusations fly over city expansion

Liberty Lake city planners tonight will recommend about 1,200 acres be added to the city’s Urban Growth Area, down from the 2,300 acres originally studied for inclusion.

But members of a citizens group are still upset, saying that Liberty Lake Planning and Community Development Director Doug Smith and the city have rushed through the planning process and have been adversarial to suggested changes, to the point of ignoring public input.

Smith said he will recommend to the Planning Commission that 1,200 acres be added to the UGA, and that an additional 200 or so acres in an area south of Legacy Ridge with views of Liberty Lake be rezoned as urban reserve land.

Paul Shields, who works with the citizens group Community Addressing Urban Sprawl Excess (CAUSE), said even with overwhelming public outcry about the proposed UGA expansion, the city and Smith are going ahead.

“Despite the collective voice of the people out there, they keep shoving this down our throat,” Shields said. “This community doesn’t want him to do it, and he’s putting his head down and going right ahead with it.”

Shields said he has received more than 400 signatures on a petition opposing the expansion, including many from people living within Liberty Lake city limits.

Additionally, the city received about 50 formal comments on an environmental impact statement opposing the expansion, with three or four people writing in support of it, Smith said.

Smith said he doesn’t take many of the opponents’ comments seriously.

“The comments I’m receiving are predominantly not rationally contemplating what the growth is expected to be here in 20 years,” Smith said. “They have more to do with opinions of the outcome.”

CAUSE member Bruce Andre said he e-mailed Smith last Friday alleging that Smith stood to gain from the expansion, since he owns 10.8 acres in one of the proposed study areas. However, Smith’s final proposal tonight does not include his own property.

Smith responded to Andre’s e-mail Friday night, telling Andre, “Let me say to you and for the record, you might be the type of person that would buy land and try to sway a decision for your personal benefit, but that is not how I operate.”

Smith also wrote Andre had “nothing of merit to offer,” and to “keep your petty paranoia to yourself.” Smith also alleged that Andre and other lakeside residents were “selfish and self-serving” for wanting to “keep the beauty all to yourselves.”

Andre on Tuesday called the e-mail “unprofessional,” repeating that Smith seems to be alone in pressing forward with the proposal despite public opposition.

“They don’t seem to get that the people in the community don’t want this kind of out-of-control growth,” Andre said.

Smith said he stands by what he wrote and said he wants the lake residents to explain their position.

“Explain to me why they have this sense of entitlement that they can exclude others from having exactly what it is they’re fighting to hold onto,” he said. “It seems to me totally selfish and hypocritical.”

Steve Shirley, also with CAUSE, said the city appears to have rushed through the application process. Though the city has met all of the requirements for allowing public comment, officials seem to have already made up their minds, he said.

“The heart of the (Growth Management Act) process is public participation,” Shirley said.

Shirley cited a state Fish and Wildlife Department response to the city’s environmental study, saying the department didn’t consider the EIS a comprehensive or complete document.

“It is unclear what scientific information or other sources were used to support the information in the (draft environmental study), and it appears that many sections were cut and pasted,” the letter from biologist Karin Divens said.

She added the study lacked scientific information, which usually takes months to complete.


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