February 19, 2009 in Washington Voices

Council hears complaints on crosswalk enforcement

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Liberty Lake City Council spent a few minutes Tuesday night addressing complaints about a recent crosswalk enforcement effort by the Police Department. Some complaints were made by people who received tickets for not yielding to a police officer in the crosswalk on Appleway by Safeco.

The Police Department set up its enforcement effort after employees at a nearby business complained of repeated near-misses in the crosswalk, said police Chief Brian Asmus. The crosswalk is marked by painted lines on the roadway and a sign on each side of the street. “Our officer walking the crosswalk was almost hit by several cars,” Asmus said. “Those people were given citations.”

The council members were generally supportive of the Police Department’s efforts. Councilwoman Judi Owens said people have to own up to their actions. “If you do the crime, you’re going to get a ticket,” she said. “Thank you for enforcing the law.”

Councilman Neal Olander encouraged Asmus to keep up the good work. “You are going to get occasional letters to the editor,” he said. “You just have to let them roll off your back.”

The council also held a closed public hearing to consider an appeal of the denial of a sign variance request for Bargain Hunt at 21510 E. Mission Ave., which is owned by Hunt Family Properties. The site has a large free standing sign that violates the city’s sign ordinance. The city has been trying to get the sign replaced since the Hunt family purchased the property in 2007.

The council voted to uphold the hearing examiner’s decision to reject the request. “Our city has very good and clear rules on signs,” Olander said. Signs that have been grandfathered in under old rules must be replaced if the property changes hands. “It’s happened many times in this city. This is no different. It’s standard procedure.”

In filing its appeal, Hunt Family Properties claimed financial hardship, saying it could not afford the estimated $40,000 cost of removing and replacing the sign. “That’s a big can of worms,” said Councilwoman Susan Schuler. “Where’s the line for financial hardship?”

The argument wasn’t convincing for Owens, either, who noted that the lengthy process began before the economy tumbled. “I think it’s just a convenient excuse,” she said. “We’ve got a plan, and I think we should stick to it.”

Brandon Hunt addressed the council and said the company just wanted to have until the end of the year to replace the sign, claiming that replacing it now would force layoffs.

In a closed hearing the council is only allowed to consider the documentation before it, and that request wasn’t included in the documents. “I think that’s a separate issue,” Crump said. “That’s not in here.”

The hearing examiner’s rejection of the variance request was narrowly upheld, with council members Patrick Jenkins, Schuler and Odin Langford voting against it.

In other business, the council discussed setting fees for reservations for renting the Pavillion Park picnic shelter and the multipurpose room at the Trailhead Golf Course. The city needs to cover the expense of staff setting up for events and cleaning up after events, said recreation coordinator Troy Mullenix. “Right now there are no fees in place,” he said.

The proposed fees are $50 to reserve the Pavillion Park structure for up to four hours and $100 for an event lasting more than four hours. The fee for the Trailhead community room would be $25. There would also be a $50 refundable damage deposit required for any reservation. “Our fees are very minimal,” Mullenix said. “We’re keeping our costs as low for our citizens as possible. We just want to recoup our costs.”

The idea met some resistance from council members, who expressed concern about setting new fees in a slumping economy. “I think we ought to deep six this idea,” said Jenkins. “We cannot continue to treat our citizens as ATMs.”

The council requested that Mullenix come back before the council with an exact price tag for what the city has spent on setting up for and cleaning up after events held on city-owned property.

Nina Culver can be reached at 927-2158 or via e-mail at ninac@spokesman.com.


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