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Valley planning commission considers river access

A proposed public access plan for the shores of the Spokane River inside Spokane Valley shows only improvements to current physical access points and does not include any new ones.

“Our premise of the plan is that our existing access is adequate,” said senior planner Lori Barlow.

The public access plan is part of the city’s state-mandated update of its Shoreline Master Program. Public access is defined as the public’s ability to “reach, touch and enjoy the water’s edge” and can include simply visual access, Barlow said. “The access encompasses more than just walking down to the shoreline.”

The proposed plan does not include Shelley Lake. “That’s a private lake,” Barlow said.

There are several new day-use areas proposed in the plan. Such areas would include benches and/or picnic tables on the shore, not necessarily physical access to the water. Suggested locations are on Eden Road near Mirabeau Park and at Myrtle Point. Suggested access improvements include more parking at Barker Road and Mission Road.

Commissioner Joe Stoy questioned a recommendation to put a boat ramp at Sullivan Park. “That’s awful rough water down there in the spring time,” he said.

Any boat ramp would be for kayaks and rafts, not motor boats, said consultant John Patrouch of URS Corp. Such an improvement may not be possible but it should be looked at, he said. “It will be very difficult in that area and it might not be achievable.”

The plan doesn’t contemplate requiring private property owners to add public access to the river, Barlow said. If a new development goes in that increases demand for access to the river, it could be included, she said. “We could still require it as mitigation,” Barlow said.

If a private property owner somehow displaces a current access point they could be required to create a new one to replace it, she said. A developer could also voluntarily propose adding public access.

Commissioner Kevin Anderson expressed concern about including swimming as a use of the river. He asked about liability if the city were to designate a swimming area.

City attorney Cary Driskell said the city has no plans to create an official swimming area. “I don’t see that as being on the horizon in the immediate future,” he said.

A public hearing on the proposed public access plan is set for Jan. 24.

In other business, the commission agreed unanimously to ask the City Council to consider creating a code amendment that would allow used manufactured homes in single family neighborhoods. The city’s current code only allows new manufactured homes to be placed on lots outside manufactured home parks.

Doing so would allow greater access to affordable housing but neighborhoods might not like the idea of allowing a used manufactured home next to their single family homes, said community development director John Hohman. “This issue kind of has ups and downs,” he said. “We’re not sure what kind of reaction we would get.”

Hohman said the city could consider setting requirements for the age and condition of the manufactured home. “It would depend on the specifics of what was being placed there,” he said. “This could be viewed as a degradation of their neighborhood.”

Commissioner Steven Neill said he supported the change. “The biggest reason I’m for it is because of affordability,” he said. However, he said he could understand why residents wouldn’t want an old, junky manufactured home next door.

“Manufactured homes have really changed as far as looks,” said commissioner Robert McCaslin.

Hohman said that about 90 percent of manufactured homes are never moved once they are placed. “All it takes is one,” said commissioner Rod Higgins.

Commission chairman Bill Bates supported the decision. “I see no reason why we shouldn’t take a good hard look at this type of thing,” he said.