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Playfair proposal put on hold again

Land bought in 2004 to build sewer plant

A City Hall proposal to declare a portion of the former Playfair horse track as surplus property and put it on the market for business development has been postponed for a second time this year, said Councilman Al French.

The city bought the defunct 63-acre racetrack in 2004 for $6.3 million to secure a possible location for a new Spokane sewer plant, but that was before county officials bought an old stockyard site along Freya Street to the east for its planned new plant.

That left the city with a large chunk of undeveloped land zoned for industrial use that it does not need. The city is planning to put storm-water retention tanks underground on about 15 acres at the site. The tanks would capture excess storm and sewer water and hold it so that it could be pumped to the city’s sewer plant for treatment, which would eliminate storm-related spills into the river.

Council members would have to declare the other 48 acres of Playfair land as surplus in order for the city to sell it. Resolutions to declare the acreage as surplus and to set a public hearing were postponed from Monday’s agenda, French said. According to French, action could occur later this summer. The effort was postponed once already this year.

French said city officials were working out details on how to accomplish the surplus sale. The property, which was purchased through city utilities, would have to be sold to the general fund since the utilities cannot get involved in economic development projects, he said.

City officials are planning to request proposals from business interests on development of the site, with a preference being given for proposals that bring jobs and economic activity. The city is not seeking to sell the property for speculation or investment holdings.

French said he has contacted Union Pacific Railroad about the possibility of putting a transfer facility at the site to load and unload containerized cargo. The site is next to the UP and BNSF Railway Co. main lines.

“It seems like an ideal location for a transloader (facility),” French said.

But that plan is running into opposition from neighborhood leaders, who want to see the property developed for jobs to employ residents of the neighborhood. Jerry Numbers, a longtime neighborhood leader, said residents don’t want to see a facility that would bring a lot of large trucks to the East Sprague Avenue area.

Neighborhood leaders would prefer a greater mix of uses and possibly a development that would complement a potential arts and international district along East Sprague. They pointed out it is an unusually large chunk of industrial land inside an urban area, and it should be sold to take advantage of that.

French said a portion of the surplus land could be sold to Spokane Transit Authority and held as a future site of a maintenance facility for a light rail transit system from downtown to Spokane Valley.

Reach staff writer Mike Prager at (509) 459-5454 or by e-mail at