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Problem for county pot growers

Spokane County commissioners may have thrown a wrench into the plans of some would-be marijuana growers hoping to set up in unincorporated parts of the county.

An interim zoning ordinance approved Monday says anyone growing recreational marijuana will have to be on at least eight acres, with plenty of space between the fields or buildings and the property lines. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.


What happened in the deal between Airway Heights and Spokane County?

It cannot be news or much of a shock to learn the Spokane County commissioners unanimously voted to express opposition to the proposed Spokane Tribe casino and resort, on land they bought and which was annexed to the City of Airway Heights.

Scroll down to the bottom of this text box to read the full nine-page document. It's long and legalistic.

For the record, we want to add the view of Airway Heights city officials, who are contending that a threatened suit by the County had little to do with their agreeing to let the county out of the 2010 deal that curtailed the right to comment on the casino plan.

Mayor Pat Rushing told us that the county was able to terminate the 2010 agreement only when it fully agreed to give up all claims on any revenue the tribe would provide to the city and county, once the casino would open.

Rushing did contact The Spokesman-Review on Friday, the day the first story appeared. Rushing said it would be inaccurate to say the lawsuit forced Airway Heights to terminate the deal. l

An Aiway Heights press release that went out on Thursday last week failed to clarify the reason for the change in plans on the city's part. Rushing said the expectation was to explain the reasons after the release went out.

But Rushing wasn't called by the media that day. That allowed allowed the commissioners to make the assertion about a lawsuit unchallenged.


County Commissioner candidates debate tonight

The Central Valley High School Government Club is hosting a debate tonight with the candidates for the Spokane County Commissioner seats. The debate, which is open to the public, will begin at 5:45 p.m. at the School, 821 S. Sullivan Road. Doors open at 5 p.m.

District 1 candidates (Todd Mielke and John Roskelley) and District 2 candidates (Shelly O'Quinn and Daryl Romeyn) will be in attendance. The candidates for House District 4 (Amy Biviano and Matt Shea) have also been invited, but Shea has not responded to the invitation. Click here for more details.

Spokane Valley, County talk critters and trash

Reporter John Craig has a story in today's paper on yesterday's joint meeting with the Spokane County Commissioners and the Spokane Valley City Council. The main topics of discussion were regional plans for an animal shelter and solid waste. The two entities are exploring how to have regional programs to deal with trash and stray or lost animals, but possibly without the participation of the City of Spokane. Expect more discussion on these topics in the future.

Once the smoke clears

Watching Spokane County commissioners Tuesday evening as they agreed to  ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, I was struck by the fact that here you have three middle-aged male Republicans, all of whom avoided ever becoming smokers.

That's a remarkable change from my own coming of age, which is somewhat  further removed than theirs.  I could also identify with the comments Al French and Mark Richard made about living in smoke-clouded homes.  But when they recalled having to go outside to get fresh air, my memories differed.  Like a fish that doesn't realize it's wet, I was never aware that I was in a fouled environment.  That was just the way things were.

Only years later, when I was married and in my own household did I begin to notice the smell and other evidence of smoking — in elevators, on clothing, even in my wife's hair after she'd returned from a meeting or social event that included smokers.

Maybe we're making modest progress.

Commissioners to fill McCaslin’s senate seat by March

Spokane County Commissioners said yesterday that they will do background checks and have requested more information on the three men up for consideration to fill Bob McCaslin's vacant senate seat. He resigned Jan. 5 for health reasons.

The 4th legislative district precinct committee officers met over the weekend and voted to forward three names to the commissioners: Rep. Matt Shea and district leaders Jeff Baxter and Roy Murry.

Read John Craig's story for more information on the three men and the appointment process.

County Commission ready to review Conservation Futures picks

CONSERVATION — At 9:30 this morning, the Spokane County Commissioners will hear the final recommendations in this round of nominations for Conservation Futures acquisitions.

The 36 nominations for Spokane County Conservation Futures land acquisitions have been winnowed to a top-10 list.

The commission plans to review the recommendations at the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway.

Since nominations closed in late October, a seven-member county parks advisory committee scrutinized properties totaling 4,700 acres.

Following are the panel’s Top 3 choices:

  1. Knights Lake, 590 acres
  2. Dishman Hills, 160 acres
  3. Antoine Peak, 240 acres

Conservation Futures nominations ranked, forwarded to County Commission

CONSERVATION — The 36 nominations for Spokane County Conservation Futures land acquisitions have been winnowed to a top-10 list to be considered by the County Commissioners on Tuesday.

The commission plans to review the recommendations at 9:30 a.m. at the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway.

Since nominations closed in late October, a seven-member county parks advisory committee scrutinized properties totaling 4,700 acres.

Following are the panels Top 10 choices:

1. Knights Lake, 590 acres

2. Dishman Hills, 160 acres

3. Antoine Peak, 240 acres

4. Mica Peak, 920 acres

5. Saltese, 555 acres

6. Williams Lake, 15 acres

7. Peone Prairie, 20 acres

8. Indian Bluff, 204 acres

9. Beacon Hill, 30 acres

10. Beacon Hill, 30 acres

Read on for links to the complete list of nominations and staff recommendations.

County, city at odds over tab fee increase

Spokane County commissioners are taking umbrage at something said by a Spokane city official.

What? You say we’ll have to be a bit more specific, because the county and city are almost always in a state of mutual umbrage?

OK, let’s start again: Last week’s comment by City Council President Joe Shogan that the county has been slow to respond to the idea of higher license tab fees does not sit well with the commissioners. They have fired back with an indignant letter, the text of which can be found inside the blog.

Last week, Shogan was quoted in an S-R news story about the council’s decision to pull a proposed $20 license tab fee from its weekly agenda. The city is looking at the fee hike as a way to avoid some layoffs.

Shogan said he’s been discussing a countywide tab increase for two or three years with the commissioners, but so far county leaders have balked at the idea.

They’ve been talking up a regional transportation benefit district for years (which would be a way to get a countywide tab fee increase) and asked the local jurisdictions to sign on, commissioners said in today’s letter.  But city officials have yet to put anything down on paper or adopt a resolution to do that.

Or to keep it in baseball lingo, we can’t balk if you can’t get to first base.

County shifts Fox funds, but says original plan was legal

Spokane County commissioners shifted the source of funding for the Fox Theater this week but their attorney insisted the original plan to take some money from the county’s share of the hotel-motel tax was legal.

Deputy Prosecutor Jim Emacio, the county’s chief civil attorney, said the county has provided money from that tax to the Fox or the Spokane Symphony off and on since 1985. The payments have ranged from $10,000 in the early years to a high of $22,000 in 1999.

Some members of the county’s Hotel-Motel Advisory Committee contended giving county money to the Fox was illegal during a meeting with County Board Chairman Todd Mielke on Monday.  “This is not the case,” Emacio said in a memo to commissioners. The legality of the payments had been reviewed.

The comments from committee members came during a meeting to set the 2010 budget for the county’s share of the hotel-motel tax. Commissioners had planned to spend $20,625 from that tax fund to the Fox for four years, and a similar amount from the Historic Preservation Fund. When committee members questioned giving money from the county’s share of the fund to the Fox, which primarily generates business for hotels and motels in the city of Spokane, Mielke said the board could rearrange the payments to take it all from historic preservation.

That’s what the board did on Tuesday, but Emacio told commissioners it wouldn’t be illegal to do it the other way. Determination of what project or entity gets money often depends on who is on the advisory committee, he said. “For example, at one time we had a member of the Symphony on the committee,” he said in the memo.

No business like snow business

Most of Spokane County may be thinking about such warm weather concerns as whether we fit into a bathing suit, whether the legs are so white they’ll blind bystanders or how to get  a decent campground site. But not the elected officials of Spokane Valley and Spokane County.

They are still engaged in a war of words over snow. Specifically, how will it be pushed off the streets of the City of Spokane Valley once it starts falling this winter. The answer:

No one is sure.

In January, the Spokane County commissioners notified the City of the Valley the county would not be plowing under its existing contract in the winter of ‘09-‘10. Valley officials’ reaction ranged from surprise to outrage to unprintable streams of invective which, if uttered outside, probably would have melted the snow and contributed to global warming.

County said the current contract allowed for cancellation with 180 days notice, and they were giving much more than that…

So now it’s almost June, and feelings apparently haven’t healed much….

County employees get early retirement push

Spokane County will offer an incentive to county employees who are eligible to retire but not yet 65 – help with medical insurance they’d have to pay until Medicare kicks in.

It’s one way the county will try to convince some higher paid employees to leave voluntarily now and reduce the number of layoffs it may need next year.

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to offer payments of up to $20,000 over 42 months to special Health Retirement Accounts that would be set up for long-time employees who opt for early retirement.