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Saturday, April 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Testimony favors undeveloped shorelines

Hearing on proposed rule changes also raises property-rights concerns

By Thomas Clouse Staff writer

A slide show of waterfowl, a recording of a songbird and a few human cries for the defense of private property rights greeted Spokane County commissioners Tuesday night as they heard testimony about changes to the Shoreline Master Program.

Most of the two dozen speakers asked commissioners to do away with any changes that they perceived would allow more development along the Spokane River or the McKenzie Bay area of Liberty Lake.

Others questioned proposed changes, meant to prevent septic tanks from polluting waterways, that could actually allow drain fields to be placed closer to the water.

Tom Agnew, of Liberty Lake, called the proposal “absolute lunacy. It’s nuts, I’ll leave it at that.”

Agnew, president of the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District Board, then delivered an impassioned speech, saying the county should protect its resources.

“I think Spokane County is a wonderful place. We are fortunate to have the shorelines relatively unencumbered by development,” Agnew said. “What we tend to do as a community is love our waterways to death. The last line of defense is the shoreline.”

One of the changes from previous efforts to update the county’s shoreline rules was to reduce the setback of McKenzie Bay from 100 feet to 50 feet.

Commissioner Mark Richard said the intent was not to allow any more development. But because the area already has lots platted, they would fall under the 50-foot buffer rule.

“It wasn’t our intent … particularly in McKenzie Bay, to allow high-density residential or a marina or any of those things,” Richard said. “It was simply to match the designation to what is already platted.”

Agnew said his concern was not to stop development, but to force property owners to develop responsibly.

“We should know better,” he said. “We can do better.”

Resident Michele Pope spoke after Agnew, offering a different view. The plan would restrict the building of new docks and private boat ramps, she said.

“I don’t think you respect the property owners. It’s not about the community standard. The property owners are the ones who own it. If they want to put in a dock … or a boat ramp, that’s their priority,” she said.

Regardless of the county recommendations, the state Department of Ecology will have the final say. Richard said state officials plan to hold a public hearing to discuss the final version of the rules, which will become state law.

Thomas Clouse can be reached at (509) 459-5495 or

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