Save the view of Spokane Falls.
That’s the consensus of the Spokane City Council, which voted 5-1 Monday to seek federal taxpayer money to buy the prime riverfront property just north of the downtown library.
“The view is too great an asset,” said Mayor Jack Geraghty. “The falls are the heart of this community, and to surround them with commercialtype development would be a mistake.”
Going after the $600,000 grant reverses a decision made by the City Council two years ago, when Councilman Joel Crosby cast the lone vote in favor of securing the federal money slated for the land.
Three council seats have changed hands since then, and three other members changed their minds about acquiring the land.
Councilman Chris Anderson voted against buying the land, saying taxpayers couldn’t afford it.
“Before you vote on this, consider the money you are about to spend as your own,” Anderson said.
“If I had that money, I’d spend it on this in a minute,” Geraghty shot back.
Steve and Leslie Ronald, who own the property, filed a $3 million lawsuit last week, alleging the city repeatedly has blocked their development plans in an attempt to preserve the library’s panoramic view.
They have planned since 1987 to build a seven-story condominium complex on their 1.4-acre slice of property.
Mike Maurer, the couple’s attorney, has said his clients didn’t apply for a building permit until February 1993 partly because of financing delays and partly because it’s a difficult site to plan. Once they did apply for a permit, the city threw obstacle after obstacle in their way, he said.
Irv Reed, the city’s director of planning services, blames delays on concerns over the sewer line running through the land and debates over whether the project needs a shoreline permit.
“We have in no way, in our view, tried to withhold or deny this permit,” Reed said.
Also Monday, the council voted 5-1 to have the county elections office validate the referendum petition asking for a public vote on the Pacific Science Center.
Petition organizers recently gathered more than 12,000 signatures aimed at reversing the council’s approval last month of a contract leasing the Riverfront Park Pavilion to the Seattle-based center.
The county elections office will make sure at least 6,000 of the signatures came from registered city voters.
If the petition is valid, the measure will go before voters in September.
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