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

County agrees to $687,000 settlement

Sewage rules wrongly applied, developers say

Another allegedly faulty land-use decision by Spokane County officials resulted in a $687,000 settlement this week.

The payout is for property near the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Day-Mt. Spokane Road, within a couple of blocks of a site where the county sank $750,000 in December 2008.

All but $500 of the new settlement, for a strip mall called Green Bluff Square, will be covered by insurance.

The payment compensates developers for losses allegedly caused by delays when the county Department of Building and Planning improperly applied new sewage treatment regulations retroactively.

Chairman Al French noted that current county commissioners weren’t in office when the disputed actions occurred.

“There has been a heightened level of sensitivity with regard to the land issues and trying to make sure we’ve double-dotted our i’s and double-crossed our t’s,” French said.

Commissioners admitted no fault Tuesday when they settled with three corporations: Green Bluff Square, H2 Development and Pinnacle Property Investments.

The development firms sued the county in June 2010 on grounds that their plans “were delayed by a critical 18 months” in which the value of their 1.3 acres “diminished substantially.”

The site, about 250 feet south of the intersection of Highway 2 and Day-Mt. Spokane Road, is now under construction.

County Hearing Examiner Michael Dempsey ruled in September 2008 that the developers acquired a vested right to use a septic system for their project when their “preliminary binding site plan” was approved in June 2003.

County planners later ruled that the 10,290-square-foot project was subject to Critical Aquifer Recharge Area standards adopted in August 2003. The new regulations required more advanced sewage treatment, which the developers said made their project “virtually impossible.”

The aquifer rules limited discharges to 117.9 gallons a day, but health rules required a sewage system capable of handling 240 gallons a day.

A couple of blocks east, at the corner of Yale and Day-Mt. Spokane roads, the county paid out $750,000 to settle a lawsuit over belated enforcement of zoning regulations.

Shawn and Theresa Gabel bought McGlade’s Treemendous Fruits and substantially remodeled the rustic structure as a sit-down restaurant. County officials shut the restaurant down when it applied for a liquor license and neighbors complained that the site’s “urban reserve” zoning didn’t allow restaurants.

The Gabels complained that a series of building permits constituted permission. Previous owners were allowed to build a 3,024-square-foot structure and add a cafe where nothing more than a 300-square-foot fruit stand was allowed.

County commissioners rezoned the site to allow the Gabels’ restaurant, but the action was overturned in court.

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