Kim and Erick Keating’s back yard is the perfect picture of Northwest serenity: pine trees framing the rolling hills, a variety of plants growing wild, and the occasional visit from moose and other wildlife.
The Keatings, two professionals in their mid-40s, moved to the southwest part of town called Albion Heights five years ago. Their house, located less than 10 minutes from downtown and about 15 minutes from Erick’s work at Eastern Washington University, is on 21st Avenue. It is one of 250 homes on the top of the Grandview area bluff and one of 15 where homeowners’ property bumps up against 23 acres of city land.
The city wants to sell the undeveloped land – south of 17th Avenue, west of D Street and north of 21st Avenue – which it has owned since the 1970s. The price is $375,000, with $40,000 in earnest money. It is the largest residential parcel the city currently has for sale.
Dave Mandyke, assistant director of public works and utilities, said several developers are interested. The deadline for submission of proposals is May 2 at 1 p.m.
The Keatings and others from the newly named Thorpe-Westwood Neighborhood Association are working toward keeping the undeveloped open space just that – undeveloped.
They hope to find help in the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program, which is taking nominations for its next, and possibly last, purchase of desirable geographic areas. Coincidently, the deadline for applications is May 2, the same date the city has set for proposals for the land.
The Conservation Futures Program “protects lands with outstanding natural features including areas that enhance natural or scenic resources.” The criteria include recreational, social, scenic and aesthetic value.
There are seven properties in the city and 13 in the county that have been acquired by the Conservation Futures, including three that were donated. Steve Horobiowski, Spokane County parks planner, said he expects between 20 and 40 different site applications to be submitted. This will be the fourth call for nominations since the program began in 1994. The program is paid for with property taxes – $6 per $100,000 valuation annually. After reviewing the applications and touring the sites, the Park Advisory Committee’s land subcommittee will make its recommendations to county commissioners this summer.
In an effort to show neighborhood support, Erick Keating has organized a letter-writing campaign he plans to submit with the Albion Heights application for nomination. Karen Carlberg, a resident on 19th Avenue, is nominating the land with Keating.
“I think it’s going to be hard to compete for a couple of reasons,” Erick Keating admitted “They will get several properties nominated and some may have some real distinct characteristics.”
Horobiowski said one of the properties he expects to be nominated is Rimrock, which will be a third section of Conservation Futures land at Palisades Park. The acquisition would provide more than 13 linear miles of nature trails from Palisades Park to Riverside State Park.
Aside from other Conservation Future potential properties, the Grandview Park residents realize their biggest competition likely will be with the developers who want to buy the land from the city.
Mandyke said there is no indication that it will not sell. The land does present some challenges, though. It is rocky, some of it is on a bluff, the lots would have to be replatted, a second access road would have to be built, and utility lines and sewers would have to be installed.
Mandyke also said he can relate to the Grandview neighborhood homeowners.
“I’ve been in similar situation, personally, where I’ve had property backed up to undeveloped property, and somebody bought it and built houses on it,” Mandyke said. “If you want to control the property, you have to own it.”
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