The Spokane Valley hearing examiner has sent a proposed preliminary plat for a new section of the Coyote Rock development back to the developer for revision after agreeing with the ordinary high-water mark set by the Department of Ecology.
The new trailside section of the development was to be largely east of a Centennial Trail footbridge over the Spokane River downstream from Plantes Ferry Park, with the homes situated between a new road and the Centennial Trail. The developer’s attorney argued that the ordinary high-water mark the DOE set west of the bridge should simply be extended eastward, but a DOE representative argued that wouldn’t work because of the behavior of the river upstream from the bridge.
There is a small inlet that forms at high-water flows just east of the bridge that reaches almost as far back as the Centennial Trail. During the hearing before the hearing examiner it was repeatedly referred to as an artificial barrow pit created by past mining.
Cliff Mort, president of Coeur d’Alene-based Neighborhood Inc., is developing the site. He said he will redesign his proposed plat to take the new high-water mark into consideration. “It’s just another bump in the road on an otherwise great location and a great project,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to do something with it. I would think we could redesign in 30 days or less.”
Mike Maher, eastern region shore lands compliance coordinator with the Department of Ecology, set the ordinary high-water mark west of the bridge in 2007. The lots in that area were first platted in 1908 and have an average 75-foot buffer. “They were kind of grandfathered in,” he said. “I did nothing east of the bridge.”
The new proposed lots in the trailside area will have to be set back 200 feet from the ordinary high-water mark, he said, which led to the drawn-out debate over where the ordinary high-water mark was. Many of the proposed homes were platted within 200 feet of the new mark and will have to be moved.
The developer’s attorney has argued that the water in the so-called barrow pit should not be considered when setting the mark because the feature was artificially created, an argument that Maher rejects. “The ordinary high-water mark follows the water,” he said. “There’s not a difference between an artificially created shoreline and a natural one. It doesn’t matter what it was.”
Mort said he has not yet decided if he will appeal the hearing examiner’s decision. “We’re not in agreement with their assumption of the high-water mark,” he said. “We haven’t had a corporate meeting yet. We’ll have a corporate meeting and work through it.”
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