September 8, 2007 in Voices

Hearing examiner rejects builder’s plans for homes in Ponderosa

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Citing an inability to evacuate more Ponderosa neighbors during a wildfire or other disasters, Spokane Valley’s hearing examiner has rejected plans for 45 more homes there.

“The sole basis for denial was basically an inadequate public access during wildfire or other disasters,” said Michael Dempsey, city hearing examiner pro tem.

The ruling, unless appealed, scuttles plans to build 45 homes on a little more than 15 acres at the southern end of Ridgeview Drive. Developer Bryan Walker, doing business as Landworks Development LLC, sought to boost the number of homes per acre allowed on the property to slightly more than six. The land can still be developed at a density of slightly more than three homes per acre, but natural water features on the property make a large chunk of the property unbuildable.

Walker was not available Thursday to say whether he’d appeal the decision. Early in the process, Walker told The Spokesman-Review he needed the higher building density, not so he could build more homes, but because homes in the development had to be built on lots smaller than 8,000 square feet. The unbuildable land adjacent to the lots assured homebuyers there’d be nearly three acres of shared open space in the neighborhood.

The ruling on Ponderosa Estates North, marked the first time in recent history that a project in the southwest Spokane Valley neighborhood was rejected for evacuation concerns.

Evacuation concerns have been cited by neighbors in protest of every major development proposed for Ponderosa since 2001.

There are only two publicly accessible roads into Ponderosa, and both cross railroad tracks. Two wildfires have burned into the forested neighborhood in the last 20 years. The worst of the two, a 1991 fire, burned 15 homes and sparked a midday evacuation of the area. The argument for not allowing more homes in the area centers on being able to evacuate everyone in 30 minutes or less.

A traffic study submitted as evidence in the Ponderosa Estates North case suggested the new homes would slow evacuation.

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