March 3, 2011 in Washington Voices

Council revisits ongoing Shoreline program process

Concerns voiced about being on ‘tail end’ of process
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The City of Spokane Valley has been working since 2009 on updating its Shoreline Master Program, and on Tuesday the city council had some questions and concerns about the process.

So far the city has completed a shoreline inventory and characterization report, which went through a public hearing in the planning commission and was accepted by the council. The three sections remaining – development regulations, cumulative impact analysis and restoration plan – must go through the same public process before the council votes to approve the program as a whole and sends it to the Department of Ecology for approval.

Mayor Tom Towey said Spokane County recently went through the same process and had some difficulty getting input from the Department of Ecology. “Do we actually communicate with them during the process?” he said.

Lori Barlow, associate planner, said city staff met with county staff to talk about their process. “Using their experiences we developed our work program,” she said. City staff invites comments from the Department of Ecology frequently.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel expressed concerns about the Shoreline Master Program advisory group, which includes city staff, business representatives, government agencies, homeowners and river users. Grassel said she would like the council to review chapters of the plan “as you go through them with the committee” because she didn’t want the council to be on the “tail end” of the process. The points of view and opinions of the council members need to be considered as the plan is drafted, she said.

Grassel said she was also concerned that special interest groups might be trying to add things to the plan that are not required and doesn’t want city staff to write policy “without hearing one word from the policy makers.”

Attorney Mike Connelly, who has been hired as a consultant on the issue, said the council is part of the process as far as reviewing each section of the plan along the way, but said the council can be given updates on each section during a study session before it goes to the planning commission. “We certainly wouldn’t want to start taking votes now,” he said.

Connelly said the plan must comply with a wide variety of state and federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act, and requires input and approval from other agencies. “This is a different animal from most of the land use issues you work on,” he said. “It requires a coordinated approach.”

One of those laws states that whatever uses the city decides to allow near shorelines, there can be no negative impact on the shoreline, Connelly said. If a different jurisdiction allows certain uses along the Spokane River, that does not mean that Spokane Valley can. “If we have a more pristine shoreline, we have a higher standard to live up to,” he said.

In other business, Public Works Director Neil Kersten spoke to the council about maintenance shop options. The city currently leases a site on First Street across from City Hall for the city’s snow plowing and street maintenance operations. The site, which includes three different parcels with different owners, is for sale for $743,000. It would need some upgrades if the city were to purchase it.

Kersten said he found a new possible site the city could buy at 17002 E. Euclid Ave. It has a small amount of office space, a large shop and sits on three acres. “It’s really a building that fits our needs,” he said. The building is in good condition. The site is also on a railroad spur, which would allow the city to bring in liquid deicer and salt for less than it costs to truck it in, Kersten said.

The site is available for $750,000. Kersten said he happened to drive by and see a “For Lease” sign and made some calls. “We just happened to stumble on it before it went on the market,” he said. “At this point I would recommend buying that property at 17002 E. Euclid.”

Councilman Bill Gothmann said it seemed like a good deal. “My recommendation is that we pursue it,” he said. “We need it. It’s a good price.”

Councilman Dean Grafos said the city should only be looking for a site for the snow plowing program and not other uses. “I hope we’re not buying this as an expansion,” he said.

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