January 22, 2009 in Washington Voices

One comp plan amendment survives

By The Spokesman-Review

Two dueling comprehensive plan amendments failed to get past the Liberty Lake City Council Tuesday night, with the city-sponsored amendment going back to the planning commission for rephrasing and the community written amendment failing to pass.

The first amendment, written largely by Councilman Neal Olander, called for the city to build recreation facilities such as sports fields and swimming pools when not available. A community group headed by a Greenstone employee wrote the second proposed amendment that calls for smaller neighborhood parks north of Interstate 90 in the River District, which is being developed by Greenstone. The wording of the second amendment closely mirrors wording in the parks section of Greenstone’s proposed Special Area Plan for the River District.

The land in the district is owned by Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review.

Michael Terrell, a landscape architect with Greenstone, spoke repeatedly against the city written amendment. He said the subject would be better dealt with in the parks master plan. “We would encourage you to deny this amendment and look carefully at the second amendment,” he said. “This statement is more specific than necessary.”

“Why does Greenstone care how the city spends its money?” asked Councilman Patrick Jenkins. “I’m not sure why Greenstone would be threatened by this amendment.”

Cindy Esch, a member of the Liberty Lake Community Park Planning Committee, repeatedly brought up an unscientific survey her group did that said residents favor trail systems and smaller parks. “Your city spoke very strongly for walkable parks,” she said. “There aren’t words strong enough to encourage you to allow the city to believe in you.”

Esch used the phrase “walkable parks” over and over again, which seemed to mean small, neighborhood parks to her. She did admit that these parks could include amenities like swimming pools or other facilities.

Councilman Olander said it was possible to have both recreation facilities and neighborhood parks on a trail system. “We can have both small parks and a community-wide facility,” he said. “People seem to jump to the conclusion that it has to be one or the other. I don’t know why. We’re a great city. We can have both.”

The city’s planning commission recommended rejection of both amendments, though city staff recommended approval of both. “An overemphasis on certain polices causes no harm,” said planning and building manager Amanda Tainio. “We didn’t think either one of them hurt.”

The council got hung up on the wording of both proposed amendments. The first called for the city to build needed recreation facilities and some council members worried that it would restrict the city to projects it could pay for by itself. “Anytime there’s that much discussion over verbiage, it needs more than a Band-Aid,” said Councilman Odin Langford.

In the end the council voted to send the amendment back to the Planning Commission for rewording, which means it will not come before the council for approval for another year. There was also concern over the wording of the second amendment, but the council could not send it back for rewording because it was submitted by a citizen and had to either be accepted or rejected. It was rejected.

Councilmembers David Crump and Judi Owens were bothered by the line that specified that the amendment applied only north of I-90. “I think that does make it too specific,” she said.

In other business, the council approved several development code amendments. Developers who build an apartment complex larger than 50 units in a mixed use zone will now be required to provide an equivalent square footage for nonresidential usage. Heights were set on walls that block views of equipment on roofs and the council also approved language that gives city staff 60 days to complete a final binding site plan review.

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

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