Shoreline Master Program delayed

Council won’t OK initial report until Centennial completes inventory

A new speed bump appeared in the road to approval of the first phase of the city of Spokane Valley’s Shoreline Master Program at Tuesday night’s council meeting as the majority of the council voted to postpone accepting the initial report.

Last week, city staff told the council they were ready for approval of the shoreline inventory and characterization report, but Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said she wanted to see more proof on statements in the inventory that said the Spokane River is contaminated by heavy metals and that some areas of vegetation are stressed.

But on Tuesday the discussion immediately derailed into whether or not the council should delay approving the inventory report in response to a letter from Witherspoon Kelly, representing Centennial Properties. The letter states that Centennial Properties is conducting an inventory of its section of shoreline and wanted the city’s report delayed to give Centennial Properties time to review it and coordinate with the city to add its own information.

Centennial Properties is a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

“What harm will come by delaying?” said Councilman Bob McCaslin.

“I don’t see any reason to delay that,” said John Patrouch of URS Corp., a national engineering firm with a local office. “I don’t know what new information they’re going to find.” Even if new information is discovered, it can be added in later, he said.

Several council members seemed eager to jump at the delay, but Councilman Bill Gothmann said that since the council wanted its consultants there to answer questions, they should ask any questions they had. “We have gone to the expense to get these gentlemen here,” he said.

Grassel again brought up the issue of proving the condition of the river. “I’m not saying the statements are incorrect,” she said. “If I’m going to approve something, I want to know there’s sound documentation behind it.”

Noah Herlocker of URS Corp. said they relied on studies done by other agencies and as an example said they got information on the status of fish from the Department of Ecology. “We didn’t go out and do snorkel surveys for fish,” he said.

The work done included high-resolution aerial photography of the river shore and walking the shoreline to evaluate it. “We did not do a lot of new scientific studies,” Patrouch said. “This is a planning level type of document.”

Senior planner Scott Kuhta said he met with representatives from Centennial Properties two months ago and offered to collaborate. “We offered to have our consultants walk the shoreline with them,” he said.

He urged the council to accept the inventory without waiting for Centennial Properties to do its own inventory. “This is not a final adoption in any way,” he said. “We’d like to put this to rest at some point so we can move forward to the rest.”

Grassel said she was inclined to wait, particularly since the city doesn’t have to have its new Shoreline Master Program in place until 2013. “I don’t think they’re asking for a long time,” she said.

Patrouch said he didn’t think any information Centennial Properties gathers would really add anything to his report. “It’s not a huge amount of shoreline,” he said. “We have looked at it during our inventory.”

When the vote was taken only Gothman and Councilwoman Rose Dempsey voted against delaying the report. “I am not uncomfortable with postponing it, but I don’t see the need to,” Gothmann said.

In other business, the council voted to apply for a $500,000 state grant to fund the construction of Greenacres Park. The city owns eight acres northwest of the intersection of Long Road and Boone Avenue. The city has already received $500,000 in grants to build the park and expects the construction cost to be about $1.3 million, said Parks and Recreation director Mike Stone. The vote to apply for the new grant was unanimous.

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