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Bella Lago issue revisited

Residents voice frustration at lack of promised sidewalk in development

The Liberty Lake City Council revisited old business at Tuesday night’s council meeting as it heard concerns from a neighborhood group from Bella Lago development about the lack of a pedestrian sidewalk or pathway from the corner of Bella Lago Lane to Valleyway/Lakeside Avenue.

Several residents spoke at length at the frustrations they have felt with the council about what the homeowners in Bella Lago deemed were procedural errors in the council passing a decision to amend the Spokane County Engineering Condition No. 22 at the council meeting on Jan. 5. Condition 22, as it is known, originally specified the construction of a pedestrian walkway/sidewalk from Bella Lago Lane to Valleyway/Lakeside Avenue. While homes have sprouted up in the area, the pedestrian walkway remains undeveloped, forcing a safety issue upon the residents of the neighborhood, according to the group.

Residents Ron Ragge, Mary Munger and Shanna Hale led the group; speaking about how the developer for the Bella Lago area, George White, has been allowed by the revision, to not only build more homes, but fail to put in a safe walkway for residents to use, which the group says was promised by the council four years ago.

“We feel there have been a number of procedural errors that could have been avoided in this whole process,” said Ragge, a seven-year resident of Liberty Lake. Ragge also suggested that the council could hold multiple public hearings on contested issues in the future, rather than the one public hearing and one private hearing they held for the Condition 22 revision.

According to the Bella Lago group in attendance, 61 residents of the development oppose the revision to Condition 22. The city is now trying to work with the residents to come up with an amicable solution.

“What we have got in Condition 22 is a commitment from the developer to participate in making those improvements,” said Community Development Director Doug Smith. “They’re (the developer) on the hook for making a pedestrian linkage with a 6-foot sidewalk or 10-foot asphalt path at the time we look to make road improvements. They’re on the hook. There is not a requirement to put both a sidewalk and a 10-foot path. It’s one or the other. Our preference at this point is sort of the standard in the area, a 10-foot path. That’s probably what we’ll lean to.”

Hale expressed concern that White would not live up to the promise of developing the walkway. The council decided to re-visit the issue and address the residents’ concerns by forming an ad-hoc committee that would consist of council members Josh Beckett, Ryan Romney and Susan Schuler, and residents Ragge, Munger and Hale. Smith indicated an engineering study as to the feasibility of making changes to the corner would be the first order of business.

“I think that’s the direction we heard from the council and that’s what the commitment will be back to the neighborhood group is that we’ll work towards that,” said Smith. “What we’ll do is work the numbers, get some estimates, and see if we have the financial means to do that. That will be communicated to both the council and the neighborhood.”

The group will hold its first meeting Friday at 1 p.m.

In other business, the council heard presentations from Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and Lisa Jameson, the program specialist for the Department of Emergency Management, on how the department and the city can work together on a comprehensive emergency management plan. The plan is in conjunction with all other cities and municipalities in Spokane County and would provide quicker response to disasters such as the Valley View fire and the winter storm of 2008-’09.

Kate Kennedy, the Spokane County community development specialist for homelessness prevention, also gave a presentation on how a program to help those struggling financially, known as 2-1-1, can be set up in Liberty Lake. The council agreed to distribute posters and spread the word of the program’s availability to city residents.