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Choosing street names an open road

There’s something a little different about having an address on Billy Jack Court, outside of Spokane Valley.

“It’s nice and distinctive compared with something like Oak or Cherry Street,” said John Chase, who lives on the street, whose name suggests a 1971 counterculture movie.

“It’s worth maybe a comment here and there. When you mention the name, some people think it’s a little quirky.”

While the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area has its share of run-of-the-mill road names such as Sherman and Main, the area also has some spice on its streets, such as Wimpy Street in Latah or Operating Engineers Lane near Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

There’s no big secret to naming roads, said Mark Holman, assistant director of building and planning for Spokane County. If a developer or landowner has a hankering for Civil War battles and generals, as one apparently did near Shiloh Hills, he can name the streets whatever he likes.

“When somebody draws up the final plat, the sponsor puts some names down for what he wants to call the streets,” Holman said. Engineers review the choices, make sure they don’t conflict with other road names, then usually approve the choices, he said.

That can lead to an abundance of avenue appellations. The Shiloh Hills development, for instance, contains General Grant and General Lee ways as well as Blue Coat and Grey Coat courts.

As in the area surrounding Fairways Golf Course near the airport, which features streets named after professional golfers like Couples Lane, planners for large develop- ments often try to theme the streets, said Doug Desmond, a professional engineer for Greenstone Homes.

“It’s extremely hard, I’ve just named so many streets,” Desmond said. He’s up to about 150 different titles now. “They’re all unique because they have to be.”

For each of its developments, Greenstone tries to name streets in a certain theme, he said. The Coeur d’Alene Place development features street names of various French philosophers. The Montrose development in Post Falls contains several Indian river names.

“That one’s fun because lots of folks can’t pronounce those names,” Desmond said, laughing. “It’s fun. I try and come up with names that aren’t too embarrassing for the folks that live on that street.”

Some street names appear to be personal, like Tina’s Trail and My Lane near Newport. There’s an Our Ranch Lane south of Spokane, and a Stingy Lane near Chewelah.

Others feature an artistic element, like Helm’s Deep Lane, which takes a cue from “The Lord of the Rings” novels.

Desmond said Greenstone owner Jim Frank hasn’t asked for a Frank Road or any other street names for family members.

“I’m pretty careful to stay away from that,” Desmond said. “That might be just a touch on the embarrassing side.”

Though developers usually come up with their own suggested names, occasionally a road will align with the grid of names already in place in Spokane County, said Doug Smith, director of planning and community development for Liberty Lake. The county often sticks to the grid, but in an incorporated city, the planner can approve any name it wishes, he said.

“Since incorporating we’ve tried to provide a little bit better identity,” Smith said. When the county was still in charge of what is now Liberty Lake, Sinto Avenue was divided into three different courts and lanes, all dead ends scattered down through the area. The city will try to prevent that, he said, though it’s not as easy as it seems.

“After a while, it gets difficult not to come up with a duplicate name,” he said.


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