February 5, 2009 in Washington Voices

Glenrose discusses sports complex

Group opposes Little League’s plan
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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They didn’t even get three strikes before they were out.

At a special Glenrose Community Association meeting Jan.28, Brian Gosline and Bret Bonham, who are both with Spokane Southside Little League, got an earful from about 40 residents of the Glenrose neighborhood.

The Southside Little League would like to purchase about 20 acres of property from Morning Star Boys Ranch for a sports complex. The complex would contain five Little League-sized baseball diamonds and a smaller, specially designed baseball diamond for disabled players.

A sports complex is considered a community recreational facility and is permitted under the current zoning at this location. But Glenrose residents want nothing to do with it.

“We are devoted to the stewardship of the Glenrose area and its rural roots,” said Peter Ice, president of the Glenrose Community Association, at the beginning of the meeting.

Later he added: “Some people will look at us as whiners, a bunch of people who don’t want boys in our backyards. That’s not the case. This project is just inappropriate for our neighborhood.”

The proposed site of the Morning Star Sports Complex is at the southeast corner of Glenrose Road and 37th Avenue.

The Southside Little League has done geological surveying to make sure the ground would be appropriate for artificial turf fields and other construction.

The complex expected to cost $4.5 million, Bonham said, and the Southside Little League has not begun any fundraising yet.

The Morning Star Boys Ranch has not yet sold or leased any property to the Southside Little League, said Jenn Kantz, spokesperson for the Morning Star Boys Ranch.

“I’d say the people at the neighborhood meeting don’t represent everyone here on Glenrose,” Kantz said. “We have had an overwhelming positive response from the Spokane community and from some people here on Glenrose, too. There is a huge need for a facility like this one.”

Kantz said there’s another meeting planned later this month between the league and Morning Star Boys Ranch.

“We see this development as a partnership between us, the Little League and the Spokane community,” said Kantz. “This goes along with what we believe in at the ranch: helping young people and healing families. This will be a good thing.”

At the neighborhood meeting, Gosline and Bonham declined to go into much detail about the sports complex except to confirm that it had been downsized from its original 40 acres, and that it will be “a quality project that will fit in with the community.”

Bonham, vice president of operations for the Southside Little League, said he only heard about the neighborhood meeting 45 minutes before it began, leaving it impossible for him and Gosline, field coordinator for the league, to prepare a presentation.

“We came mostly to listen, we are still in the planning stages,” said Bonham.

After the meeting, Bonham said he was surprised by how strongly residents opposed the sports complex.

“They are an action group, and they are used to bullying themselves around,” said Bonham. “We are not a developer who is developing this for profit. We all live here, and we are trying to enhance the community.”

At the Jan. 28 meeting, Glenrose residents certainly did not see the sports complex as an enhancement. They were concerned about the increase in traffic – the area has mostly two-lane, rural-style roads – noise and light pollution from the ball fields, and also the impact a sports complex would have on the environment and wildlife.

“Glenrose is a bowl; light and sound will travel everywhere,” Ice said. “There will be a massive amount of cars on our roads, and what happens after the games when teenagers find out it’s a great place to hang around?”

On the night of the meeting, Bonham said the sports complex would be operated mainly on week nights and Saturdays, but not on Sundays. As it’s a privately-owned facility Bonham assured residents it would be properly locked up when not in use.

That didn’t sit well with neighbors who wanted their children and grandchildren to have access to the complex when Southside Little League isn’t using it.

Some suggested the sports complex could be built by South Regal and Palouse Highway instead.

“Those pieces of land off Regal are for commercial development,” said Bonham later. “To pay for that, you need the revenue from retail development. Of course, if someone wants to give us 20 acres in an appropriate spot out in the Palouse, that would be fantastic.”

Bonham said about 800 kids are part of the Southside Little League which currently uses baseball fields all over the South Hill, among them Thornton Murphy Park, Mullan Road Elementary School, Grant Elementary School and Ferris High School.

“Some of the fields are downright dangerous – there’s a huge need for a complex like this,” said Bonham.

Spokane County Planner Jim Millgard said that Morning Star and Southside Little League came in for what’s called a pre-development hearing.

“Essentially they come in to ask questions, look for any red flags, before they buy property,” said Millgard.

No public hearing is needed before construction can begin.

“The zoning in that area is ‘urban reserve’ which means it’s the area immediately outside the urban growth boundary,” said Millgard. “It could some day be included in the urban growth boundary, but we’d need a crystal ball to know whether that will happen.”

Apartments or retail stores could not be built there under the current zoning.

A neighborhood could be developed on the site with one home per 20-acre lot, Millgard said, adding that, “you can lower the density but not the lot size, by clustering homes. You must leave 70 percent as open space.”

Scott Engelhard, transportation engineering supervisor for Spokane County, said it’s been quite some time since he last heard from Southside Little League.

However, if the sports complex moves ahead a final proposal must be approved by the county before construction can begin.

“When they resubmit their final proposal for site plan review and comments, we’d ask for traffic information,” said Engelhard, adding that he’s not sure if the county would demand a traffic study. “We would ask them about the number of trips generated by the facility, and we’d want to be able to comment on that.”

The county would also ask for detailed information about drainage, access to utilities and storm water runoff.

Throughout Wednesday’s meeting Glenrose residents reiterated that they have a good relationship with Morning Star Boys Ranch, but felt surprised when they heard about the sports complex.

“The Ranch and the Little League don’t seem to have any concern for the neighborhood,” Ice said. “We are not anti-kid, we are pro-family and pro-children, but this is just a very poor location for this facility.”

Reach Pia Hallenberg Christensen at piah@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5427.


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