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County receives conservation list

Knight’s Lake is top choice for acquisition

Spokane County’s Conservation Futures program may get a new, narrower target for acquiring public open-space land.

County commissioners this week received a staff and advisory committee recommendation to focus on the top 10 properties on a priority list of 36 offerings. They plan to take action at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A 590-acre parcel with one-third mile of shoreline on Long Lake is at the top of the proposed list.

Known as Knight’s Lake, the property is available at 10 to 20 cents on the dollar from the state Department of Natural Resources, and anonymous neighbors have pledged $100,000 for long-term maintenance.

Other targeted properties, in descending order, are at Dishman Hills, Antoine Peak, Mica Peak, Saltese Flats, Williams Lake, Peone Prairie, Indian Bluff. A pair at Beacon Hill round out the list.

Barring special opportunities, the parks staff will work its way down the priority list instead of dealing simultaneously with first- and second-tier lists, county parks director Doug Chase said.

County officials expect to have $1.7 million to $2 million available for land purchases next year under a state-authorized tax program commissioners implemented in 1994.

The money comes from a special property tax of up to 6  1/4 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Commissioners voted this week not to take an allowed 1 percent, $16,560 increase next year over the current $1.6 million levy.

So far, the program has acquired 24 properties totaling 5,057 acres, at a cost of $19.3 million. The tax covered $14.5 million and grants paid the rest.

Assistant Director John Bottelli said the parks staff and the Parks Advisory Committee analyzed and rejected public suggestions to snap up land at depressed prices by selling bonds against anticipated tax revenue.

Advisory committee member Mark Peters said the panel “strongly felt” the Conservation Futures program shouldn’t incur debt.

County commissioners agreed.

“It’s just like taking a loan in your personal life,” Commissioner Mark Richard said.

Next week’s meeting will be in the basement of the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway Ave., next to the courthouse.