December 15, 2010 in City

Commissioners maintain conservation priorities

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Last-minute pleas to preserve land on Beacon Hill failed to persuade county commissioners to shuffle a priority list for Conservation Futures property acquisitions.

Eight people urged the commissioners to give a higher priority to a package of 11 parcels on Beacon Hill, a popular hiking and mountain-biking site overlooking Hillyard.

“The views are really beautiful up there,” Spokane resident Lance Miller said. “If you develop that and close it down, I just think that would be a huge tragedy.”

Pete Rayner said he owns a lot of the property being used by mountain bikers and hopes to develop homes whose buyers could use the existing network of trails.

South Hill resident Jonathan Price cited the trails’ proximity to the Centennial Trail, and former Spokane Planning Commission member Candace Mumm encouraged commissioners to “think like the users” of recreational land.

Commissioners expressed sympathy for their argument that the property-tax-supported Conservation Futures program should place less emphasis on pristine rural sites and more on open spaces that are easily accessible to urban residents.

In the end, though, commissioners couldn’t resist a 590-acre property that’s available for 20 cents on the dollar and would come with a $100,000 anonymous donation for maintenance.

Known as Knight’s Lake, the state Department of Natural Resources property has one-third of a mile of shoreline on Long Lake and is surrounded on three sides by land already in county Conservation Futures ownership.

The land is at the top of a 10-parcel list recommended by a selection committee, the Parks Advisory Board and the county parks staff.

“I don’t think this is an opportunity we can afford to lose,” Commissioner Bonnie Mager said, citing the need to get “bang for the buck.”

Commissioner Mark Richard agreed.

Commissioner Todd Mielke thought it unlikely the state could sell Knight’s Lake property to anyone else in the next few years, but joined in the unanimous vote to accept the list as proposed.

Two of the proposed Beacon Hill parcels remain at the bottom of the list.

Other properties on the list, in descending order, are at Dishman Hills, Antoine Peak, Mica Peak, Saltese Flats, Williams Lake, Peone Prairie and Indian Bluff.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved a narrowly written zoning code change to allow the county Utilities Division to acquire property at Saltese Flats.

The land may be used for disposal of treated wastewater from a county sewage treatment plant under construction if discharge into the Spokane River proves unfeasible.

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