Spokane Valley’s new Shoreline Management Program has been stalled for weeks, but there were some signs of activity at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The city is operating under a shoreline management plan inherited from Spokane County when the city first incorporated. The city is required by state law to approve a new plan by 2013. The plan must also be approved by the Department of Ecology.
Community Development Director John Hohman reported to the council that his staff checked the ownership of every riverfront parcel along the Spokane River to get an idea of “what impacts our shoreline management will have on the ground.”
The analysis showed that only 38 percent of the land is privately owned. “The vast majority is public land, most of it owned by the state.”
Staff spent most of their time looking at vacant commercial and residential land. “That’s really what our shoreline policy is going to impact,” he said.
Washington State Parks and Recreation owns 66 percent of the vacant land zoned residential, which includes land along the Centennial Trail. The other large property owners are Coyote Rock at 25 percent and Inland Empire Paper at 3 percent.
The government also dominates the vacant commercial/industrial land category with 61 percent. Other large commercial property owners include Centennial Properties at 15 percent, Acme Materials and Construction at 6 percent, Hanson Industries at 13 percent and Pinecroft LLC at 4 percent.
Inland Empire Paper and Centennial Properties are both owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.
Hohman touched on the legal difficulties surrounding the Coyote Rock Development. Thirty lots have been platted, but environmental groups are in an uproar over plans to put in a dock for each lot. So far two docks have been installed, Hohman said. “These are tied up in litigation right now,” he said.
The Coyote Rock developer recently tried to plat a new Trailside subdivision next to the river, but that approval wasn’t granted because of a dispute with the Department of Ecology over the ordinary high-water mark, which sets the point at which a 200 foot shoreline buffer begins. “That caused the project to really stall out,” Hohman said.
Hohman said he has been discussing with the DOE the option of having the buffer end at the Centennial Trail, which is within 200 feet of the shoreline in that area. “That’s something they’re willing to work with us on,” he said.
That proposal would have exceptions for stands of unique vegetation and areas of high-functioning wildlife habitat. “We can also look at areas that don’t have value and don’t need to fall under those stringent 200-foot buffers,” he said.
Hohman also pointed to three successful projects that were impacted by the existing shoreline rules and were still allowed to proceed after they satisfied various conditions. “You can get projects through,” he said. “It’s not a moratorium within that 200-foot buffer.”