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Court refuses to hear dispute over Appleway right-of-way

Spokane Valley has run out of ammunition in its battle to force Spokane County to hand over an abandoned railroad right of way without strings.

The Washington Supreme Court has refused to hear the city’s appeal of two lower court rulings that say the county may do as it pleases with the part of the right of way it hasn’t already given the city.

State law required county commissioners to turn over only the portion of the right of way that had already been turned into Appleway Boulevard when Spokane Valley incorporated in 2003. The former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Co. line extends from Argonne Road to Liberty Lake.

County commissioners want the city and the Spokane Transit Authority to share proportionally in the cost of widening the undeveloped portion of the right of way, which varies in width from 40 to 100 feet, for a potential light rail line as well as the roadway. Until recently, city officials have insisted STA should buy all the extra land needed in areas where the right of way is too narrow.

The city and the transit authority are negotiating an agreement that calls for the city to pay for some of the additional land, but it stops short of what commissioners want.

“I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with the Supreme Court,” Mayor Rich Munson said. “We have to go back to the drawing board.”

Munson said he sees the proposed agreement with STA as a basis for settlement with the county, but County Commissioner Mark Richard said commissioners think their existing offer is “more than fair.”

Susan Meyer, STA’s chief executive officer, said Spokane Valley is now offering to pay to widen the right of way to the 72 feet needed for Appleway Boulevard, leaving STA to pay for the 28 feet it needs, she said.

Munson said, “For the light rail right of way, that’s the STA’s responsibility.”

However, Richard said commissioners prefer a division that encourages light rail as well as a new road

“Those are the two objectives that we would like to see achieved, and we happen to be the land owner,” Richard said, noting Spokane County taxpayers paid $3.5 million for the railroad right of way in 1980.

The county’s proposal would have the city and STA split the cost of all of the extra land according to their portions of the overall road and light rail corridor. Thus the city would pay 72 percent of the cost of extra land; STA, 28 percent.

“Under those conditions, the county continues to offer up the corridor,” Richard said.

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