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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Painted Hills developers propose dumping 330,000 cubic yards of dirt for Spokane Valley housing project

File - Parts of the old Painted Hills Golf Course routinely flood, as shown in this March 2017 photograph. Neighbors are protesting a proposed development there. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
File - Parts of the old Painted Hills Golf Course routinely flood, as shown in this March 2017 photograph. Neighbors are protesting a proposed development there. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Developers may dump 330,000 cubic yards of dirt atop the old Painted Hills Golf Course in Spokane Valley as part of a plan to bring the site above the floodplain and then build hundreds of homes.

The housing project has been in the works since 2015. Called the Painted Hills residential project, it consists of 300 single-family homes and 280 multifamily units. It is to be built on more than 99 acres northeast of the intersection of Dishman-Mica and Thorpe roads in phases over 10 years.

Plans also call for neighborhood commercial space and 30 acres of open space with trails, a park and wildlife travel corridor.

The site, which lies within a floodplain and over the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, was purchased by Dave Black of Black Realty Inc. for $1.1 million in 2013, after the former Painted Hills Golf Course ceased operations.

Black and Bryan Walker, broker with NAI Black, each own 50 percent of the property – which is one of the largest tracts of suitable residential building land in Spokane Valley.

Project Engineer Todd Whipple of Whipple Consulting Engineers filed a Federal Emergency Management Agency map change in August that includes plans to raise ground elevation of the site to remove it from the floodplain as well as control floodwater through culverts, dry wells and ponds.

The 330,000 cubic yards of dirt is the equivalent of about 21,400 commercial dump-truck loads.

Whipple initially submitted plans in 2015 using levee improvements to prevent flooding of the site, but city staff raised concerns about levee maintenance at a meeting last year.

Spokane Valley’s community and public works department determined an earlier proposal was likely to have a negative impact on the environment, prompting the need for revised flood control plans and a new environmental impact statement.

Walker said they’ve been working with the city, agencies and other jurisdictions to ensure the new plans will properly control flooding.

“We have to make sure we create the right plan to deal with water that comes to the property,” he said. “We feel like not only we’ve done that, but exceeded it.”

The Painted Hills development has been controversial among neighboring residents opposed to the project.

The city has received more than 250 letters and comments from residents, with some stating, “Consider an alternative use for the property, such as finding a method to move ownership from developer to the city and create a recreational site” and “consider use as a golf course again.”

The Painted Hills Preservation Association, a nonprofit group formed by neighbors, cited a significant increase in traffic, flooding potential, impact to wildlife and overcrowding in schools if the project is built.

The association hired Seattle-based Tilghman Group to review a traffic study submitted to the city by the developer, claiming it fails to follow city code requirements for traffic impact analysis and underestimates the number of car trips generated by the development.

Association organizer Daniel Pavelich said residents remain concerned about the Painted Hills development three years later.

“I think it’s gained interest, not lost interest,” he said. “This is a very unique development that has raised awareness of other people. It’s a big deal.”

However, Walker said the infrastructure built as a result of the project will improve the area by correcting flooding issues and providing sidewalks for children walking to school.

“We will be fixing the flood problem, the school problem, slowing down traffic and creating a lot of jobs for our community,” he said.

Access to the development will be located at four points along Madison Road, with one intersection at Thorpe Road and three at Dishman-Mica Road.

The city is preparing an environmental impact statement for the project and is encouraging residents to weigh in on impacts, flood prevention and project alternatives via written comments to Lori Barlow, the city’s senior planner, before Friday at 5 p.m.

The new plan to import 330,000 cubic yards of material has been deemed “significant” by the city, which has asked Whipple to submit plans for coordinating delivery and management of the fill.

Once the city deems the environmental impact statement is complete, a public hearing would be scheduled and the project will move on to the city’s hearing examiner, who will issue a decision approving or denying the project.

Walker said he remains confident the Painted Hills development will move forward because of the time spent planning, designing and working with various agencies on the project.

“We won’t have much delay once we receive our approval,” he said.

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