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Wandermere residents plan to oppose apartments

Residents of several neighborhoods near Wandermere Golf Course have hired an attorney and plan to lobby county commissioners Tuesday to oppose plans to construct a three-story apartment complex on forested land.

At a packed-house meeting Sunday night at Covenant United Methodist Church, more than a hundred neighbors met to make sure they provided what one speaker called a "united front" at a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday night. The lone agenda item is considering a rezoning request from Rudeen Development to change a 4.5 acre parcel from low- to high-density, key in its plans to construct a three-story, 354-unit apartment complex on an oblong plot between North Wandermere Road and U.S. Highway 395.

Here's a map showing where the proposed development would be from Spokesman-Review graphic artist Molly Quinn:

Map of proposed Wandermere development

County commissioners, prompted by Al French, chose to hold another public hearing on the rezoning after the county's planning commission voted in November to reject the rezoning, based on arguments from neighbors about the strain on Mead's schools and area traffic. Jennifer Mudge, an area resident who has led the organizing effort to combat the development, led the meeting Sunday and said she wants to fill the commissioners' public hearing space with bodies.

"I hope we have more than this, I honestly want to flood that room," Mudge said. "I want to be overflowing, out of the room, up the stairs."

Several of the speakers Sunday night talked about traffic concerns on Wandermere, particularly with children playing across the street and crossing to play with children who might move in to the apartment complex. Others worried their home values would plummet with apartments visible from their backyards on the forested bluff where the proposed apartments would be built.

Among those in attendance was Tom Rockefeller, superintendent of the Mead School District. He said after the meeting the school is in a tough spot, but hasn't taken any official position on the development. A member of the school board said they'd be meeting Monday night and would draft a statement in opposition to the project.

At the meeting was an envelope for collections to pay attorney's fees. The neighbors have hired legal counsel in anticipation of the proposal being approved by county commissioners. They would likely appeal that decision, sending the proposal to the Growth Management Hearings Board.

Tuesday's meeting on the rezoning will take place in the Commissioners Assembly Room at the county's Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway Ave., at 5:30 p.m. Mudge said she hopes county commissioners, who can overrule the planning commission's recommendation and allow the project to move forward will work with neighbors on the project.

"We're not saying, 'Don't build,'" Mudge said. "We're just saying, 'Work with us.'"

Shannon Stiltner responds to Zags tickets complaint

The girlfriend of convicted Ponzi scheme artist Greg Jeffreys said she's fulfilling court-ordered restitution and denied victimizing anyone in a response filed in federal court over the weekend.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern Washington filed a motion last week after it came to light Shannon Stiltner, who spent seven months in federal prison after pleading guilty to misprision of a felony for her role in Jeffreys' scams, had received a cash gift of $2,700 from her mother that she used to buy Gonzaga men's basketball tickets for the upcoming season. U.S. Assistant Attorney Sean McLaughlin called the purchase "a slap in the face" to the two named victims in court documents owed a little more than $58,000 in restitution.

In rebuttal, Stiltner's attorney John B. McEntire IV called the motion, which would require all cash gifts received by Stiltner to be given to the debtors until they've been repaid in full, "awfully aggressive."

"Before receiving the $2,700 cash gift from her mother for the Gonzaga tickets, Ms. Stiltner contacted her supervising probation officer to explain the situation and seek advice. Ms. Stiltner’s supervising probation officer "staffed" the issue with her supervisor, who ultimately concluded that so long as Ms. Stiltner contributed 10% of this one-time cash gift ($270) towards her restitution obligation, then she would be fully compliant with the Court’s restitution order. "

- John B. McEntire IV
Response to United States' motion

McEntire said that Stiltner paid $270 of her own money in order to receive the cash gift and pay for the Zags tickets.

In support of the motion, McEntire writes that Stiltner is making restitution payments to victims of Jeffreys' scams, not her own. When pleading guilty to charges, Stiltner admitted only that she knowingly kept herself from learning that Jeffreys was involved in fraud, not that she actively participated in his schemes.

"Nowhere did Ms. Stiltner ever admit knowing that Mr. Jeffreys was engaged in a scheme to defraud investors – because she did not," McEntire wrote.

Stiltner also argues that the government's request is not feasible, because it would require cash gifts of any amount to be turned over to the two named victims.

"Or let’s say, as another example, that Ms. Stiltner forgets her wallet and her friend offers to buy her lunch," McEntire wrote. "Under these circumstances, Ms. Stiltner could not accept the $8 or $11-dollar gift for lunch."

U.S. District Judge Rosanna M. Peterson will decide whether Stiltner's restitution order should be changed. No oral argument has been scheduled, and Peterson could rule as early as this week.

Idaho home prices show 4th-biggest gain in nation

Idaho home prices showed the fourth-biggest gain in the nation in a national survey comparing home prices in March to those a year earlier; Idaho home prices were 14.5 percent higher. Nevada saw the largest gain at 22.2 percent; California was next at 17.2 percent, and Arizona was third at 16.8 percent. Oregon was just behind Idaho with a 14.3 percent increase.

The data, from Core Logic, a real estate data provider, showed that nationwide, home prices increased 10.5 percent, and that they've now increased for 13 straight months. Record low mortgage rates, more demand and a limited supply of homes for sale were among factors driving the increases; the number of homes for sale in March was 17 percent below that of a year earlier. Click below for a full report from the Associated Press in Washington, D.C.

There are four-legged real estate agents

And soon they will be showing Inland Northwest lake places to various critters in the market for winter homes.


"This next cabin I'm going to show you has loads of charm."

Who is Spokane’s Buddy Kane?


Buddy's sign says "Call me." So I did.

Wanted to ask if he enjoyed his motel scene — in 1999's "American Beauty" — with Annette Bening.

But I reached a directory assistance service. It could be the 555 ensures that will happen, no matter what the other numbers.

If this is the realtor you’re meeting…

…don't ask too many questions about the previous residents.


Snake-infested house traumatizes residents

An eastern Idaho house that's infested with so many snakes that the ground around it appears to move has been abandoned by its traumatized residents, who were told when they bought it that the snakes were was just a story invented by the previous owners to escape their mortgage, reports AP reporter Jessie Bonner. The former residents of the five-bedroom Rexburg home said it was like living in a horror movie; a wildlife biologist says the house likely was built on a winter snake den, where  snakes gather in large numbers to hibernate for the winter. Click below for the full story.

Reward for tips in vacant home burglaries

A $1,500 reward is being offered for tips that solve a burglary ring that preys on vacant homes.

Crime Stoppers already had offered a reward for tips that help solve 23 burglaries in Spokane Valley in which kitchen appliances were stolen from vacant homes.

Now the Spokane Association of Realtors has pitched in to increase the amount of cash available for helpful tipsters.

Police say the thief first steals the real estate lock box from the front door of the vacant homes that contains the key, then returns with a truck to steal ovens, stoves and refrigerators.

"The boxes are designed to be difficult to break open, so the thief does that elsewhere," according to a February Crime Stoppers news release.

Anyone with information on the burglaries is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Thieves targeting for-sale Valley homes

Real estate agents are being targeted in a theft ring that preys upon vacant, for-sale homes.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help solve 23 burglaries in Spokane Valley in which kitchen appliances were stolen from vacant homes.

Police say the thief first steals the real estate lock box from the front door of the vacant homes that contains the key, then returns with a truck to steal ovens, stoves and refrigerators.

"The boxes are designed to be difficult to break open, so the thief does that elsewhere," according to a Crime Stoppers news release.

Anyone with information on the burglaries is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Spokane homes sales slow in July

Spokane County homes sales tumbled in July, but prices slipped only slightly from year-ago levels, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

A total 347 homes sold during the month, off 36 percent from July 2009 and 31 percent from June, when the last of the sales prompted by an $8,000 federal income tax credit closed. The credit expired April 30.

The July retreat broke a nine-month string of year-over-year sales increases.

Median and average prices sagged to $170,000 and $191,074, respectively, down 3.4 percent and 1.7 percent from July 2009.

The 321 pending sales for July also fell significantly compared with July 2009, which tracks a national downturn Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said he expects to continue until later in the year.

Although inventories of unsold homes remain high, Yun said prices are stabilizing, or even improving in some harder-hit markets.

In Spokane, 3,500 homes were listed as of Aug. 4, a 10-month inventory at the July rate of sales.

Spokane home sale prices up from May

Home sales in Spokane County dipped slightly in the past month but remain near levels seen a year ago.

The average sales price in June was up from May but lower than one year ago, the Spokane Association of Realtors reported today.

Closed sales totaled 506 in June, down from 519 in May. In June 2009, there were 501 closed sales in the county.

The average sales price in June was $190,308, up from $180,523. A year ago, the average sales price was $193.164.

Closed residential sales in the first half of the year are up 24.5 percent from the same period in 2009.

The number of homes and condominiums for sale grew in June to 3,406. That’s up by 102 properties from May. A year ago, 3,282 homes and condos were on the market.

Realtors report burst of home sales in first quarter

Realtors today reported a burst of home sales in Spokane County during the first three months of the year.

Residential sales of single-family homes and condos on less than an acre were up 23.2 percent over the first quarter of 2009, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

The group reported 790 closed sales during the January-March period, up from 641 a year ago.

The pickup in sales corresponds with a surge in interest among homebuyers taking advantage of a federal homebuyer tax credit. The popular tax credit, which expires April 30, has benefited millions of first-time and move-up buyers purchasing new homes.

Another reason for rising sales may be falling prices. The median price of Spokane County homes sold in the first quarter was nearly $160,000, which is $15,000 less than homes sold in the first three months of 2009. Realtors say first-time homebuyers are drawn to those prices.

The average sales price in the first quarter was $177,480, down from $200,125 in 2009.

More homes were listed for sale in the first quarter: 2,897 versus 2,138 in the first three months of 2009.

Got $49 million to spare?

During memorial services, former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana imitates coach Bill Walsh holding a cup “filled with margaritas” on the field. Associated Press

If you’re looking for a home, Joe Montana is selling his “simple” retreat.

“Standing in the upstairs living room on a brisk October morning Jennifer Montana described her husband, football great Joe Montana as a simple guy. “He needed a beer tap, a pretty good-sized television screen and a barbecue area,” she said.

Simple wouldn’t be the first word that comes to mind in describing the couple’s retreat, which extends into both Napa and Sonoma counties. Set on 500 acres on a hilly, forested expanse with year-round creeks and uninterrupted views, the couple’s 9,700-square-foot Tuscan villa-style house with a tower boasts the beer tap and many hidden flat-screen televisions, but what commands attention are the baronial flourishes and details, many of them imported from Europe.”


I guess simple is a relative term. If you could affored a 9,700-square-foot home, would you buy one?