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Price changes conservation priorities

County commissioners are shuffling their Conservation Futures shopping list to take advantage of a half-price sale.

They accepted Parks Director Doug Chase’s recommendation to snap up 552 acres in the Saltese area south of Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley.

The Conservation Futures program acquires open-space land with a voter-approved property tax of up to 6  1/4 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The $1.2 million price for the Saltese site includes a $65,000 contract to develop trails across the hilly land.

Chase said the price is half of what an appraisal in December said the property is worth.

The price was more than $2.6 million when AmericanWest Bank offered the foreclosed land last year. The bank reduced the price to $1.7 million in November and to $1.2 million this month.

Under the previous offers, the bank would have donated a $100,000 endowment for maintenance. Even with the endowment off the table, the latest offer saves the county $400,000.

Based on staff and committee recommendations, county commissioners ranked the Saltese site fifth last year in a new priority list of potential Conservation Futures purchases. Commissioners moved the site to third place Tuesday.

Chase said the action wouldn’t affect ongoing negotiations to acquire the top-rated McLellan Addition site at Long Lake or the No. 2 site in the Dishman Hills area south of Spokane Valley.

The 590-acre McLellan Addition site, which includes one-third mile of shoreline, is available at 10 to 20 cents on the dollar from the State Department of Natural Resources.

County officials originally used the DNR’s name for the site – “Knight’s Lake” – but changed the name to prevent confusion. The purchase would not include nearby Knight’s Lake, which is privately owned.

The 160-acre Dishman Hills site would connect other public land in that area.

A 240-acre addition to the county’s Antoine Peak Conservation area and 920 acres at Mica Peak dropped to fourth and fifth place on the acquisition list.

Assistant Parks Director John Bottelli said projected revenue should cover the top three to five sites on the 10-parcel priority list over the next five years.