The Liberty Lake City Council handled its few items of business quickly and efficiently Tuesday, voting to award some money to the Valley HUB and declaring old library shelves surplus.
The council approved giving the Valley HUB $30,000 from its Lodging Tax Fund. The donation will pay for various promotional items, highway signs and advertising. “There’s still $10,000 left in that budget,” said Mayor Wendy Van Orman. “We wanted to keep a cushion just in case.”
The council also discussed the procedures used to process Special Area Plans, which govern the development of specific areas. A SAP includes everything from the width of streets to the number of parking spaces. A SAP submitted by Greenstone Corp. for the River District is currently before the planning commission and is expected to come before the council in April.
City council members and staff went to great pains during the meeting to say they weren’t discussing any particular SAP, using the phrases “in general” and “hypothetically.” It seemed clear, however, that the council was asking questions about what would happen if they disapproved of part or all of a SAP. The city and Greenstone have clashed in the past over the size and locations of parks in the plan and Greenstone is also asking for several deviations from the comprehensive plan.
City staff and the city attorney said the council has the right to refer to the city’s comprehensive plan, TIF/LIFT plan and parks master plan in making its decision.
Council member Neal Olander presented an update on the Tax Increment Financing expenditures so far, which includes a $94,000 payment to a law firm hired by Greenstone. TIF money comes from property taxes paid to the city from the River District and will eventually collect $15 million to be spent on infrastructure. The fund is overseen by Spokane County and Olander expressed concern that the requests for payment under the TIF program don’t seem to get much scrutiny.
Some council members seemed unhappy that the law firm got such a large payment. “Did this law firm help to get the TIF and then after they got it they got paid from it?” said Councilman David Crump.
The attorneys were attending meetings and being paid by Greenstone, which then submitted a bill to Spokane County for reimbursement out of the TIF funds, said Olander. “We don’t have any ability to check numbers,” said Councilman Patrick Jenkins.