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Coyote Rock docks must be removed

A dock sits below the Coyote Rock development on the Spokane River. (File)
A dock sits below the Coyote Rock development on the Spokane River. (File)

Docks in the Spokane River at the upscale Coyote Rock housing development will have to be removed now that the state Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal to keep them.

The state high court’s decision not to review the case means a Court of Appeals decision that they are illegal will stand.

“The developer will have to take out the two docks already there,” said state Department of Ecology spokeswoman Jani Gilbert. “That’s final now.”

Coyote Rock developer Cliff Mort, president of Neighborhood Inc., did not return a call seeking comment.

The docks, downstream of Plantes Ferry Park in Spokane Valley, have been controversial ever since they were installed in 2010.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife in January 2010 granted approval for the developer to install one dock. The installation time was restricted to between June 16 and Aug. 31 to protect spawning fish. But the dock was installed in late January or early February, violating the permit. A second dock was brought in and chained to a tree at the same time.

Spokane Valley granted a shoreline exemption for the first dock in April, and another for the second dock in July that year. Exemptions are available for docks valued at under $10,000 that are “for the private non-commercial use of the owner, lessee or contract purchaser of single and multiple family residences.” The Coyote Rock docks, however, were installed by the developer near a “spec” home.

The Department of Ecology issued a notice of correction in 2010 after the agency found evidence that the docks were put in place by a tractor of some sort that damaged shoreline vegetation, violating the city’s shoreline ordinance.

Gilbert said the developer advertised Coyote Rock’s 30 home sites along the river as each having a private dock.

“Having those docks would have seriously degraded the shoreline,” she said. “It’s a very pristine stretch of the river.”

The Department of Ecology filed suit against the city of Spokane Valley and Coyote Rock LLC alleging that the docks were illegal.

A decision in Spokane County Superior Court found in favor of the developer; Ecology appealed. The Court of Appeals found in favor of Ecology in a suit joined by Spokane Riverkeeper, the Spokane Chapter of Trout Unlimited and The Lands Council.

The appeals court ruled that the docks are illegal because only homeowners can apply for a shoreline exemption to install docks, not developers building spec homes.

Gilbert said the department is pleased by the Supreme Court’s decision to let the Court of Appeals ruling stand. “It preserves habitat for fish in the area,” she said. “We’re very happy about that.”

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.