September 3, 2009 in Washington Voices

Parks deal altered

Greenstone proposal to council could expand Orchard Park
By The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday night’s public hearing at the Liberty Lake council meeting was mostly a rehash of unresolved issues between the city and Greenstone on the River District Specific Area Plan, but a Greenstone representative appeared to signal a change in the parks plan for the district.

The developers are required to put in at least one community park, defined in the city’s comprehensive plan as being between 10 and 50 acres. They have identified Orchard Park as a community park even though it is only 8 acres. The city council and city planning commission have said repeatedly that Orchard Park needs to be at least 10 acres.

In the past Greenstone representative Mike Terrell and others have indicated in city council meetings and in planning commission documents that if the city wanted the park to be 10 acres it would have to purchase the additional 2 acres.

The land being developed by Greenstone is owned by Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

However, during Tuesday’s public hearing Terrell indicated that Greenstone would allow the city to make Orchard Park larger without forcing it to buy extra land. He said that the proposed park sizes are suggestions and that the city can shift acres from other proposed parks. As an example, both West River Park and River Bend Park are proposed to be 7 acres each. The city could choose to make both those parks 6 acres and shift 2 acres to Orchard Park. “We are not opposed,” he said.

The Specific Area Plan also calls for two half-acre pocket parks, 2.5 acres devoted to a swim and recreation center and 10-acre Quinimose Park. Council member Dave Crump questioned why Quinimose wasn’t considered a community park.

Quinimose is a long, narrow area next to the river, said planning and building services manager Amanda Tainio. “That’s more open space with few facilities,” she said.

A total of 35.5 acres are devoted to parks and it’s that number that is firm, Terrell said, not the number of acres in individual parks. No one on the council commented on the apparent change in the Specific Area Plan proposal, which is still under negotiation as the council prepares to vote whether to reject or accept it this fall.

The council also discussed other differences of opinion between Greenstone and the city, including a maximum number of parking spaces provision in the city code that Greenstone doesn’t want to be held to. Council member Patrick Jenkins seemed to question the requirement as well. “Why would we want to limit the number of cars that can come into our city and park?” he said.

Community development director Doug Smith said the city isn’t anticipating any big box stores in the River District so huge parking lots won’t be necessary. Tainio said that other businesses in the city have only put in the minimum required parking and been happy with it.

Terrell, however, said that he thinks limits on the number of parking spaces may make businesses look elsewhere. “It creates that additional hurdle,” he said.

An additional public hearing on the River District Specific Area Plan will be held before the council votes on the document.

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