River lots approved

Private docks violate city, state regulations, agency says

A developer has been granted permission by the Spokane Valley Hearing Examiner to place 51 single family homes on a 10.98-acre parcel of land that is part of the Coyote Rock development along the Spokane River, but plans to add private docks on another part of the development have hit a snag.

The 60-acre project is located between Empire Way and the Spokane River across from Plantes Ferry Park where a footbridge carries the Centennial Trail across the river.

Neighbors had expressed concern about roads leading into the project being too narrow to handle increased traffic.

The decision by hearing examiner Mike Dempsey approved the preliminary plat for the 10-acre section with some revisions. A 2.6-acre “remainder lot” may need to be left empty to meet open space requirements and the developer must stop work if any Native American artifacts are unearthed during construction, Dempsey wrote.

Developer Cliff Mort, president of Coeur d’Alene-based Neighborhood Inc., said he doesn’t anticipate finding any artifacts on the parcel because it was a former gravel pit that he filled in. “We moved all of this dirt in here and nothing was found during site construction,” he said.

Mort also doesn’t believe he needs the 2.6-acre section as open space because of the 30-acre Myrtle Point Park next door. The Centennial Trail also follows the Spokane River shore in front of the development. “We don’t have to set it aside,” he said. “We’ve satisfied the open space requirement in other areas.”

Mort plans to put in another road this spring and then begin building on the parcel Dempsey’s decision approved. “These will be sold this summer, or be for sale,” he said.

The development as a whole will include about 250 homes, including 30 on waterfront parcels that were platted in 1908. Those home sites are being heavily marketed as being the on “Spokane’s last section of boatable waterfront” with “private docks.”

The dock issue may be a more notable stumbling block than getting the hearing examiner to approve the preliminary plat.

A spec home is being built on a waterfront lot by Invest Northwest. A permit to install a dock was granted, but the Department of Fish and Wildlife stipulated that the dock could only be installed between June 16 and Aug. 31 to protect spawning fish. The dock was installed sometime around the end of January or the beginning of February in violation of Wildlife’s project approval.

In an on-site interview, Mort denied any knowledge of the dock issue. “I don’t understand why we’re pointed at as a criminal,” he said.

While the Fish and Wildlife hydraulic project approval was applied for by Invest Northwest, it is Mort’s cell phone number that is listed as the contact. Mort also signed the SEPA checklist for the dock, said Jeff Lawlor, area habitat biologist for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Mort did not return messages seeking additional comment.

Lawlor said that whoever installed the dock also violated the city of Spokane Valley’s shoreline ordinance. He found tractor tracks leading from a nearby road that traveled along a significant section of the shoreline. The heavy equipment left crushed vegetation and broken trees in its wake, which Lawlor photographed. Fish and Wildlife’s approval was also contingent on the requirement that shoreline vegetation be disturbed as little as possible and be fully repaired after installation.

The dock has been fully installed, but a second dock was apparently brought in at the same time and is sitting in the water, chained to a tree, Lawlor said. That, too, is a violation.

Spokane Valley associate planner Micki Harnois said a second dock permit was applied for by Monarch Development, one of the builders associated with the development. The application is on hold because of the issues with the first dock permit, she said.

Lawlor said his biggest concern is the impact to the shoreline. “I was really upset that they (city of Spokane Valley) entertained a permit for a dock without a shoreline application,” he said. “They’re not independent actions.”

The city has not taken any action on the shoreline violation but the Department of Ecology is, Lawlor said. “They’re just sitting in the back seat and watching the Department of Ecology file,” he said. “They should be taking the lead. It’s their ordinance that has been violated.”

Spokane Valley Planning Manager Greg McCormick said that DOE has issued a violation notice. “I’m kind of waiting to see where that goes before we proceed,” he said. “I’m working with the Department of Ecology. We have not started any enforcement action. This needs to be a coordinated situation.”

McCormick said a shoreline exemption that would have allowed installation of the dock was applied for, but it has not been granted. “We’re working on it,” he said.

Lawlor said he was also worried about how residents would get from their homes to any docks. There are no access points being built and if people just walk down to the shore and create paths that would also be a violation of the shoreline ordinance.

That may not be the only issue facing owners of shoreline homes in the Coyote Rocks development. The only river access for the boatable stretch of the river between Upriver Dam and the Centennial Trail footbridge is a boat launch owned by the city of Spokane at the dam.

Upriver Dam superintendent Mark Cleveland said the launch is not open to the public. The city has an informal “goodwill” agreement with Millwood residents to open the launch for one day every spring to allow residents to put their boats in the water. It is opened again in the fall for one day so the boats can be removed.

Neighborhood Inc. has not asked the city for access to the boat ramp, Cleveland said. Without it, homeowners would be unable to get any boats in the water. “They would have to negotiate with the city of Spokane for access,” Cleveland said. “Otherwise they would have to figure out a way to portage them in off their own property, but then you have shoreline concerns. You’re not supposed to disturb the land within 100 feet of the water.”

There are about 50 or 60 docks currently on the river in the Millwood area, Cleveland said, and he would have concerns about increased river traffic. “You’re adding 30 docks,” he said. “It’s a very small waterway.”

Residents of the new development would also be limited to the stretch of river between the dam and the Centennial Trail footbridge from April 16 to Oct. 14, said Spokane County Sheriff Marine Deputy Patrick Bloomer. Power boats are not allowed east of the footbridge during the high river traffic months because it is considered a whitewater area, Bloomer said.

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