Whether private property owners should be required to allow public access to the Spokane River dominated discussion Tuesday night during the regular Millwood City Council meeting.
A public closed record hearing on the city’s mandated update to the Shoreline Management Program allowed the public an opportunity to discuss the issue without introducing new information.
The city submitted a draft to the state Department of Ecology earlier this year with the wording “new private shoreline development is encouraged to provide public access.” The state asked that the word “encouraged” be replaced with “required” with exception. The council held a special meeting in November to discuss the document.
Longtime Millwood resident Jack Bunton, who lives along the river, expressed concern about public access allowed next to his property via a vacant lot.
“We fear that it’s going to add to our problem of vandalism and increased incidents of crime,” Bunton said. “Encouraged and required, these are dangerous words. They are violating our constitutional rights. We believe in the Constitution, the preservation of private property.”
Inland Empire Paper Co. Environmental Manager Doug Krapas said the company is concerned about terminology in the document in regard to public access. Inland Empire Paper is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.
Krapas said the company preferred the term “encouraged.” “There is no specific mention or requirement of public access onto private property in regards to SMP.”
Krapas said Inland Empire Paper has had safety and security issues related to public access on its property in the past. One example involved young people swinging on a rope swing over the river on IEP’s property.
“They got injured,” Krapas said. “We got sued over that.”
Councilman Kevin Freeman said the city has been working to come up with a shoreline plan that meets the needs of the citizens.
“Half of our shoreline is private residential,” Freeman said. “The other half is industrial. The shoreline for Millwood is 99.9 percent privately held. … ‘Encourage’ might have been the better language that suits the city of Millwood.”
Jamie Short from the Department of Ecology acknowledged the effort put into the document, then addressed the issue of public access on private property.
“You’re not the first governing body to struggle with this language, nor will you be the last,” Short said. “It’s in every master program that has been approved by the agency. I would encourage the city to maintain the changes that you already put in place. It’s consistent with state law and meets requirements for public access.”
The city has until December 2013 to submit the final document.
In other news, the council approved a resolution increasing sewer rates and amending the public and private irrigation service water rates. The new sewer rates for nonresidential customers are based on wintertime water consumption. A nonresidential customer will pay the residential base rate of $35.40 for 800 cubic feet of water, plus $1.44 for each additional 100 cubic feet of water.
Freeman suggested amending the water usage for private irrigation service from 16,000 cubic feet outlined in the resolution to 22,000 cubic feet.
“It’s equivalent to half acre foot,” Freeman said about the change in usage. “A standard unit for crop irrigation.”
Freeman’s amendment means customers will be charged 20 cents per 100 cubic feet for usage up to 22,000. Above that, users will be charged 30 cents per 100 cubic feet. The council agreed with Freeman, and amended the resolution before adoption.
The council further amended the pubic irrigation service maximum usage to 88,000 cubic feet month at 20 cents per 100 cubic feet. Usage above the 88,000 cubic feet will be charged 30 cents per 100 cubic feet. Public irrigation is water usage by a public entity for irrigation, such as park and playground areas.
The council’s approval of a resolution amending the Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan includes a sidewalk improvement project along Buckeye Avenue planned for next summer. The revision helps meet the qualifications for a Transportation Improvement Board grant the state awarded to the city earlier this fall.
The $261,345 grant covers 95 percent of the estimated cost of the sidewalk project. The city’s estimated portion is $13,755.
The council also unanimously approved the 2013 budget.