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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Conservation Tax Approval Means New Look At Protected Properties

The head of Spokane County’s parks board wants his committee to take a fresh look at which properties should be protected under the conservation futures tax.

Spokane County voters approved taxing themselves to protect certain undeveloped properties in Tuesday’s election. The vote was advisory, but county commissioners have said they would follow the voters’ say on the issue.

“I hope the board will spend some time revisiting properties and re-prioritize them,” said Ed Sharman, chairman of the parks advisory committee.

“Yes, we need to do that,” agreed Wyn Birkenthal, county Parks and Recreation director.

Once county commissioners decided to ask voters’ opinion on the conservation futures tax, Birkenthal and the board held off on researching any properties.

“We didn’t get people’s hopes up (that certain parcels might be protected) until the issue was decided,” he said.

Now, Birkenthal said, the public can bring new properties to the park board’s attention.

Next, county staff will analyze all properties under consideration. They will look at wildlife values, vegetation, recreation and the impressions of the park board, Birkenthal said.

“It’s a big job, and one that we’re delighted to have.”

Sharman pointed out that the parks panel has had considerable turnover since it originally selected properties that it wished to protect.

Passage of the conservation futures tax means that for another five years landowners will continue to be taxed 6 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value.

“I’m delighted,” said Denny Ashlock, one of the earliest advocates of the Centennial Trail. “I think (the futures tax) is one of the best commitments this county has made as far as quality of life.”

Ashlock said he hopes the county considers purchasing property adjacent to the trail.

“I think people are beginning to realize that open space is one of the nice things that makes people want to live here,” said Tom Rogers, one of the leaders of the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association. “And the cost is nominal.”

Using conservation futures money, the county has negotiated for 820 acres near Big Rocks on Tower Mountain. Those negotiations will continue.

, DataTimes

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