May 17, 2012 in Washington Voices

Planning panel studying shoreline draft goals and policies

By The Spokesman-Review
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The Spokane Valley Planning Commission spent four hours last week painstakingly reviewing the Shoreline Master Program draft goals and policies, but they often seemed frustrated over the purposely broad statements and asked for more details about how the goals would be implemented.

The fine print will come during the regulations phase, said attorney Tadas Kisielius during the May 10 meeting. “Determining the limits, determining the details will come later in the process,” he said. “This is the blueprint. The details come later.”

The draft goals and policies were put together by city staff and a Shoreline Advisory Group that included property owners, businesses, environmental groups, river users and representatives of government agencies. Part of the planning commission’s job last week was to consider changes to the draft that have been suggested by citizens, the Department of Ecology, environmental groups, Avista Utilities, and Centennial Properties, which owns land along the Spokane River. Centennial Property is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

Kisielius, who has been hired by the city to work on the shoreline plan, told the planning commission which changes it could make and which would violate state law. He advised the commission that a few proposed goals and policies went further than what the law requires.

“If it’s more restrictive than what’s required, let’s back off,” said commission chairman Bill Bates.

Some time was spent discussing how the plan would address active gravel mining operations. There are two in Spokane Valley that are large enough to be included in the shoreline plan. Additional language has been added to make it clear that the pits will not be regulated by the shoreline plan until after they are no longer in use and reclamation is complete. “We don’t need to regulate these now,” Kisielius said.

Docks on the Spokane River are also addressed in the plan. The Shoreline Advisory Group decided to specify that docks would not be allowed in free-flowing sections of the river, said senior planner Lori Barlow. “We’ve had instances where docks were attempted and they’ve washed away with the current,” she said.

“I understand this is a tricky issue here,” said Kisielius, referring to a recent court decision against docks installed at the Coyote Rock development near Plantes Ferry Park. “The regulations allow some flexibility. They allow docks.”

The draft includes a requirement that residential developments with more than two homes have community docks rather than individual docks.

“Policies requiring joint-use docks are very common,” Kisielius said. “This is an issue that was litigated recently. This is an issue that’s important to the Department of Ecology.”

Barlow reminded the commission that other agencies, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife, have a role in permitting docks. Much of the land along the river is owned by the state, which makes the dock issue moot, she said. “Keep in mind how little of our properties have waterfront,” Barlow said.

The commission is scheduled to continue its deliberations on the shoreline draft goals and policies at its next meeting May 24.

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