August 3, 2008 in City

Public hearing Monday on Playfair site

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane city officials are ready to take the next step in turning the old Playfair racecourse property into a site for new jobs or other potential uses.

City Council has scheduled a public hearing Monday to take testimony on a council vote last month to declare 48 acres of the Playfair site as surplus. The hearing to set a minimum value will come during the regular 6 p.m. session in Council Chambers at City Hall. The item is at the end of the agenda. The Spokesman-Review previously reported the city would request development proposals for the property, without noting that Monday’s hearing first would occur to establish its minimum value.

City officials and neighborhood leaders hope the large piece of vacant industrial land next to two rail lines will attract new businesses and create jobs in east Spokane.

After Monday’s hearing, the city is expected to open the property to a type of bidding that involves submitting proposals. Potential purchasers will be asked to submit plans on how they would use the property. The goal is to get the land back on tax rolls with commercial or industrial uses. City officials have said they are not likely to sell the property for investment only or speculation.

“This is truly an opportunity to test market interest in this property,” Economic Development Director Theresa Sanders told council members at a briefing Thursday.

Council President Joe Shogan said there is some community interest in considering the area for affordable housing.

Monday’s hearing involves a resolution setting a minimum value, which according to city documents is $5.1 million.

The city, under former Mayor Jim West, bought the defunct 63-acre tract in 2004 for $6.3 million as a possible location for a new sewer plant, but that was before county officials bought an old stockyard site along Freya Street to the east for the new plant.

At the time, the city was seeking locations for storm water retention tanks under state-ordered environmental improvements to the sewer system. The city’s sewer utility plans to use 15 acres of the site for retention tanks to prevent overflows of combined runoff and diluted sewage into the river during storms or heavy snowmelt.

The tanks would capture excess water and hold it so it could be pumped to the city’s sewer plant, eliminating storm-related spills into the river while protecting the city plant adjacent to Riverside State Park from overflowing.

That leaves the remaining Playfair acreage available for redevelopment. The $5.1 million price would fully compensate the utility for the money it spent to buy the entire site.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or mikep@spokesman.com.

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