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El Rancho residents still in state of transition

Marian Tounsel hoped she could retire at the El Rancho Mobile Home Park.

Three years ago, she decorated the outside of her trailer with smiling wooden orange flowers and moved in with her family and small dog.

“It’s an old trailer to some people, but to me it’s my home,” said the 67-year-old Tounsel.

It may not be by the end of the year. Last fall Tounsel and the park’s other residents were informed by the park’s new owner that they would have to move.

Vandervert Developments plans to build a shopping center on the land at the corner of Highway 41 and Mullan Avenue in Post Falls – prime commercial property.

A group of churches called the Christian Community Coalition is trying to help, but it’s more of a resource for information.

“We’re not really able to financially help with the situation,” said Northwoods Fellowship Pastor Curt Wegley.

Eviction notices have not been sent to the tenants, and there is no timeline for redevelopment of the property, said Dave Dixon, who is managing the project for Vandervert Developments.

A few of the park’s residents have already moved out, but most remain. They live at El Rancho because they can’t afford to live anywhere else. The rent is $260 per month – less than a market-rate studio apartment.

“I’m worried about where I’m going to be going,” said Cat Foster, who lives at El Rancho with her boyfriend and 2-year-old son. “I look every day in the papers. Everyone wants a perfect credit score and doesn’t care that we don’t make a lot.”

She said the uncertainty is taking a toll on her family, especially son Chase Larson. “He has no clue why everybody is all stressed out.”

Iraq war veteran Chris Bove lives at El Rancho with his wife and daughter. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Baghdad, Bove said he spiraled downhill in Florida and ended up living out of his car.

Now the 25-year-old is trying to put his life back together. El Rancho’s sale put a serious glitch in his plans.

Bove added that hurtful comments about the park’s residents haven’t made things easier.

Instead of sympathizing with residents when the news broke last fall, some people just said good riddance to trailer trash, he said. “I just want to scream out and find these people and say, ‘You don’t know us. One day you may be in this position, too.’ “

– Amy Cannata

Shoreline rules changing

Plans to erect high-rise structures along the Spokane River could be halted if the city of Spokane tightens regulations on shoreline development.

The city is in the midst of a multiyear effort to update its shoreline master plan, and there is talk at City Hall about implementing design standards that would protect views of the river from high-rise development.

City staffers are working with consultants on a draft of stronger regulations that would govern building setbacks from the river, height, width, uses and design. The new shoreline rules could spawn controversy over environmental design and property rights.

State lawmakers are requiring cities and counties to update their shoreline plans.

A draft of the new rules is still being written and won’t be made public for another month, officials said. Hearings are expected later this spring before the Plan Commission and City Council.

– Mike Prager

Roundabout planned

Spokane Valley will get its first traffic roundabout as part of a $5.6 million street improvement project scheduled to begin this summer.

The roundabout will be about a half-mile from the nightmare intersection of Pines Road and Indiana Avenue, which is the focus of a complicated plan.

Picture a trail of dominoes toppling around a rectangle as one improvement leads to another.

At the lower right corner of the rectangle is the messy collision of Pines Road, Indiana Avenue, Montgomery Avenue, the Union Pacific railroad tracks and Interstate 90.

Motorists trying to get through the tangle sometimes get backed up to the intersection of Pines Road and Mansfield Avenue at the upper right corner of the rectangle.

At the upper left corner, a 130-foot-diameter roundabout will improve safety and reduce costs, according to city engineers Steve Worley and Ken Knutson.

Drivers won’t have to wait for a light to change before crossing the three-way intersection of Montgomery, Mansfield and Wilbur Road, where the roundabout will be built. All they’ll have to do is yield to traffic already in the roundabout.

– John Craig


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