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Saturday, August 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Open space designation fields many nominees in county

Program evaluating parcels for purchase

Three dozen properties have been nominated for purchase by Spokane County’s Conservation Futures program.

The candidates to become permanent open space vary from half an acre to 920 acres and are scattered across the county.

A large tract near Liberty Lake had been part of a housing project called Legacy Ridge, but developer Marshall Chesrown surrendered it to AmericanWest Bank last year in lieu of foreclosure.

Bank spokeswoman Kelly McPhee said the property was recently appraised at $4.58 million, but AmericanWest is willing to sell it to the Conservation Futures program for $2.6 million.

Although the nomination lists 585 acres, the assessor’s office and bank records show 552 acres.

Another unusual nomination is 400 acres next to the Deer Park Airport. The land is owned by the city of Deer Park.

Nine of the nominations form a 280-acre block in the Beacon Hill area at the eastern edge of Spokane. Owners include Avista, with almost 77 acres, and Paul Sandifur, former owner of bankrupt Metropolitan Mortgage, with five acres.

A committee of volunteers will soon begin evaluating the land for a new priority list that county officials plan to establish by the end of the year.

The Land Evaluation Committee’s recommendations will be reviewed by the Parks Advisory Committee before going to county commissioners for a public hearing and adoption. The hearing date has not been set.

Negotiations to purchase land on the list will begin next year, when county park officials expect to have about $1.7 million to $2 million available.

The money comes from a special property tax of up to 6.25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which currently produces about $1.6 million a year. Because of a 1 percent lid on levies, the rate has fallen to 4.27 cents per thousand.

County commissioners adopted the state-authorized tax in 1994, and voters have approved it in three advisory ballots. Support was nearly 63 percent in the most recent vote, in November 2007, which prompted commissioners to renew the tax with no sunset date.

So far, the program has acquired 24 properties totaling 5,057 acres, at a cost of $19.3 million. The tax covered $14.5 million and grants paid the rest.

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