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Plan change appealed to state hearing board

Amendment allowing Liberty Lake land to be subdivided at issue

Some residents on the shore of Liberty Lake have been complaining long and loud about a proposed zoning change to a 3.6-acre piece of property at 24024 E. Lakeridge Drive.

Now that the Spokane County Commissioners have voted to allow a comprehensive plan amendment to rezone the property to allow more development, residents are feeling unheard and have filed an appeal with the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board.

The land, owned by Lancaster Enterprises, was zoned as rural traditional like all the other property on the shore of the lake. The area was zoned that way under the Growth Management Act to restrict further development even though the lakeshore is already densely developed for the most part. Previous development has been grandfathered in.

The commissioners granted the landowner’s request to zone it limited development area residential, which usually allows up to six homes per acre. There is already one home on the parcel.

When commissioners approved the zone change, they did so with the condition that a developer agreement limiting the site to five lots or less be negotiated. That stipulation has not appeased many neighbors.

“We are pursuing further legal action,” said Kathi Shirley of Community Addressing Urban Sprawl Excess. “We feel very frustrated that they didn’t listen to the community and they didn’t listen to their own planning commission.”

The Spokane County Planning Commission released a written decision recommending the zone change be denied because it would “set a negative precedent for rural areas that would be inconsistent with the goals and policies for rural areas per the Comprehensive Plan. Assigning the Limited Development Area – Residential designation to a single property simply for the purposes of allowing that owner the opportunity to further subdivide property is not appropriate.”

“It’s really a terrible precedent to set,” said Shirley. “That’s our main concern with it. It wasn’t the number of lots that was the problem, it was the procedure they’re using to do it.

“There are other parcels, not only around Liberty Lake, that would fall under that reasoning. They’re basically opening the door to ignoring the Growth Management Act and that’s not a good way to go. There’s a reason that was enacted.”

Some had also raised concerns about the possible damage to the quality of the water in Liberty Lake if building took place on the waterfront parcel.

Commissioner Mark Richard was one of two who voted to approve the zone change. He said he doesn’t usually vote to overturn the Planning Commission’s decisions. “I’m not so sure they weren’t influenced by the more vocal neighborhood members that were against it and not so much the code,” he said.

Richard said he voted for the change because it was obvious the area was not rural even though it was zoned that way. “That whole urban area is zoned rural,” he said. “Yet, if you drive the street you clearly see that it is entirely urban.”

Requiring a developer’s agreement to limit the growth on the parcel should be sufficient to protect the neighborhood and the lake, he said. “The condition we put on the agreement was no more than four additional lots,” he said. “We did want to try to maintain what we felt to be reasonable land use but not have adverse impacts on the traffic, the schools and on the lake. Those four will be larger than any surrounding lots. It seemed to be fair, reasonable and legal to subdivide to a substantially less density than the parcels immediately surrounding them.

“I looked at this from a legal standpoint and from a fairness standpoint and what was on the street. I don’t see this as having any adverse effects on the lake.”

Both sides will now take their arguments to the Growth Management Hearing Board, which can vote to overturn the commissioners’ decision. It’s a possibility that Richard said is likely since the board “has a tendency to decide against the county.”

It’s an outcome Shirley is hoping for. “It’s not legally consistent, according to our attorney and our own take on the Comprehensive Plan.”

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