The City of Spokane Valley has been working on an update to its Shoreline Master Program for two years and it appears to have hit a stumbling block. A few City Council members had pointed questions Tuesday about the proposed goals and policies city staff formulated with the input of a citizen’s advisory group. The goals and policies are but one step in the process and serve as the basis for the shoreline regulations the city will create.
The Shoreline Advisory Group included business and property owners, Spokane River users, environmental groups, government agency representatives and residents. The group met eight times and came to a consensus on the final draft document, said senior planner Lori Barlow. “It helped create a document that was much more reflective of the community’s interests,” she said.
The Shoreline Master Program is required by state law and must be approved by the Department of Ecology. The Shoreline Management Act is very specific about what must be addressed in the plan, said Barlow. “The flexibility comes in how you address it,” she said.
Council member Arne Woodard said he had objections about the wording in several places. One section said the city would “ensure all shoreline uses and development are regulated in a manner that guarantees no net loss of shoreline ecological functions.” Woodard said he believed the word “guarantee” should be replaced by “ensure.”
“Some of the wording, quite frankly, scares the heck out of me because we’ve lost absolute control,” he said. He also objected to a section that specified that statewide interests would be recognized over local interests. “I thought this was a local shoreline management plan,” he said.
“That is one of the requirements, that we do give preference to statewide interests,” Barlow said.
That the City Council is reviewing the goals and policies now is contrary to normal procedure. The normal process for new regulations is for them to go before the Planning Commission for a public hearing and consideration. The commission then makes any changes it believes are necessary and recommends approval or disapproval. The regulations then go before the City Council for consideration before a final vote.
Woodard said the council should make changes to the proposed goals and policies before it goes to the Planning Commission. “I’ve highlighted several words that bother me,” he said. “Why would we want to present it to the Planning Commission with fatal flaws in it?”
Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said the council should have more input rather than less. Barlow said city staff is working to schedule a joint meeting with the Planning Commission and the City Council before the commission has a public hearing. “We haven’t locked in those dates,” she said.
Grassel also said she wanted to hear more about a letter received from one of the Shoreline Advisory Group members who didn’t agree with the final product. “I think they have some valid points,” she said.
The letter came from Centennial Properties, which owns a large amount of land along the Spokane River. Centennial Properties is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.
Attached to the letter was the company’s own version of the shoreline goals and policies, which the letter says includes “minor” changes. Some of the changes suggested, however, would seem to weaken the document. The Centennial Properties version of the statement cited by Woodard guaranteeing no net loss of shoreline ecological function states the city would “protect” current shoreline ecological functions “to the greatest extent possible.”
City Manager Mike Jackson said staff has had no time to review the letter or proposed changes. “It came in late today,” he said. But the Shoreline Advisory Group as a whole did approve the draft document, Jackson said. “There was collaboration and acceptance at that level,” he said.
Mayor Tom Towey said that while the city council has a vote on the shoreline plan, it does not get the final say. “The ultimate authority, I believe, is the state,” he said. “They can either accept our document or reject it. We cannot, alone, dictate our shoreline policy.”
In other business, senior engineer Steve Worley presented several projects he would like to submit for grant funding through the Transportation Improvement Board. The projects include Mission Avenue improvements between Flora and Barker roads, Bowdish Road improvements from Eighth Avenue to 16th Avenue, Park Road improvements from Broadway Avenue to Indiana Avenue, extending Mansfield Avenue from Houk Road to Pines Road and extending Broadway between Flora and Barker roads.
Worley said he will also ask for funding to replace the southbound Sullivan Road bridge, which has recently had weight restrictions imposed to slow the deterioration. Worley said he was going to throw the project into every application he could because it is such a critical project. The city needs another $10 million before construction can begin.
Nearly all the projects already have grant funding for design work and/or right of way acquisition and the city just needs construction funds, Worley said.
Councilman Dean Grafos said he liked the plan to extend Mansfield Avenue. “I think it’s an important project,” he said. “I think you should really push for it.”
There is limited grant funding available for sidewalk projects and Worley said he wants to ask for grant money for Sprague Avenue between Appleway and Long Road, Fourth Avenue between Sullivan and Conklin roads, and Progress Road between Wellesley and Trent avenues.
The council also reviewed several proposed designs for city signs that could be installed at city entry points and city parks or other facilities. Several different designs drew praise from council members, who appeared to like the proposals that incorporated river rock. The signs vary in cost depending on size and materials, said Parks and Recreation Department Director Mike Stone.
Grassel said she was concerned about maintenance costs. “All of these signs could stand on their own without landscaping,” Stone said.
The council agreed to put up the proposed designs on the city’s web site to ask for public input on which design to use.