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Water still a stumbling block for Beacon Hill project

The Beacon Hill development was the subject of a preliminary plat and planned-unit development hearing before the city of Spokane hearings examiner last Thursday. About 20 people were there to testify in support of the development, which has been widely embraced by Hillyard business people and residents.

The project presented at last week’s hearing is the first phase of the Beacon Hill home development. This part is located on the northern face of Beacon Hill, with access from Wellesley Avenue, and its developers propose the construction of 304 single and multifamily homes on 40.31 acres. The total development site is 182 acres and it’s zoned for 3,000 residential units.

Owners Pete Rayner and David Baker have been working on the project for more than a decade, and at last week’s hearing Rayner said it has cost the developers close to $900,000 to get to this point partly because the city has delayed responses to various applications and changed zoning laws.

“Things stalled in 2007 and 2008,” Rayner told the hearings examiner, adding that what he is proposing is a mixed-use development that meets all current zoning requirements.

One hold up, Rayner said, has been the development’s access to water.

There is a water tank on Beacon Hill, but a new one may have to be built just as pumps and new water lines may have to be put down to maintain adequate water pressure and flow.

Rayner presented a document from 2006, signed by the then-head of the city water department, Brad Blegen, which outlined an agreement among the city, Beacon Hill and another entity known as Vista Homes. Each would take care of part of the water infrastructure improvements needed.

Vista Homes was not represented at the hearing, and no one in the room knew if that development is moving ahead.

Rayner wants the city to move ahead and make the water infrastructure improvements so he can get on with his development.

He said it would cost him as much as $800,000 to bring the water access up to par without the city’s help.

“Too many people have spent too much money and too much time trying to develop this part of town,” Rayner said.

Representatives from the city’s water department at this point are reluctant to foot the entire bill.

Traffic engineers have some concerns about the access road to the development, which may be too steep and have too many blind curves, but at the hearing it sounded as if a solution could be found.

The city also raised a concern about sewer access. Apparently the line leading up to the proposed development has been plugged because it’s old and cracked and has significant groundwater infiltration.

J.R. Sloan, president of the Greater Hillyard Business Association, said that Hillyard residents are looking forward to the completion of the Beacon Hill development.

“We believe that Beacon Hill is one of several things that needs to happen,” Sloan said, explaining that residential development in Hillyard has been neglected for too long. “Beacon Hill would promote homeownership in our area.”

At the conclusion of Thursday’s hearing, representatives from the city and Beacon Hill were asked to submit a document outlining a satisfactory solution to the current stalemate.

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