Residents in the Glenrose neighborhood filed a lawsuit against Spokane County’s planning director last week, demanding that he more clearly explain a land-use definition that could allow the development of a large youth sports complex on 20 acres of agricultural land in the rural neighborhood southeast of the city.
The Glenrose Association, which opposes the project by the Spokane Youth Sports Association, said Planning Director John Pederson is “specifically assigned a duty” by state law to interpret the county’s zoning code. The association suggests he hasn’t done so and therefore is flouting his duty.
SYSA has plans to build a $2.2 million complex, which it calls the Zakheim Youth Sports Complex, on the southeast corner of 37th Avenue and Glenrose Road. The county has classified the project as a “community recreation facility” instead of a “participant sports and recreation” facility, which the neighborhood believes is a more correct definition, due to both its size and character.
County planning department workers said Pederson was not available for comment Friday.
According to a grant application filed by SYSA with the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, the sports complex will “build one multipurpose sports field, a parking lot, storage facilities, and restrooms. When fully developed, the sports complex will include four youth baseball fields, two multisport fields with lights, a basketball court, storage facilities, restrooms, and a walking path. The multiuse field could be used year-round and will be the only synthetic turf field on the South Hill.”
The complex would draw teams “from the entire Spokane area,” according to the grant application, including “the Northside, Mead, Deer Park, Spokane Valley and Airway Heights.” The complex would host two large tournaments a year, “necessitating at least 350 hotel rooms.”
Considering the breadth and nature of activities in the complex, the Glenrose Association has argued that the project doesn’t meet the definition of “community recreation facility,” which does not include the word “sport” in its description. Instead, the classification applies to a place that “provides amusement, relaxation, or diversion from normal activities for persons within the area in which it is located and which is not operated for profit.”
In July, the neighborhood association asked Pederson to review the classification, and sent a check for $1,152 to complete the request, a payment required by the county’s fee schedule.
On Aug. 27, Pederson denied the request and returned the check. In a letter to the association, he said the county had reviewed the classification in 2008 and the matter was settled.
Rick Eichstaedt, a local lawyer who works for the Seattle-based environmental law firm Bricklin & Newman and represents the association, said the 2008 review was not done in a public process, and so is not a binding decision.
Eichstaedt and the association want to force Pederson to review the classification by filing what’s called a “writ of mandamus,” which is “an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion,” according to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.
Proposals to develop the property first arose more than a decade ago, when the Spokane South Little League sought to develop a $4.5 million, 20-acre baseball complex on land then owned by Morning Star Boys’ Ranch. The project didn’t go anywhere, but during this time, the Morning Star Boys’ Ranch transferred the property to the Morning Star Foundation.
With no sign of development in 2012, the foundation sold the 20 acres to South Spokane Little League for $577,000. Four years later, development had yet to begin and the property was sold to SYSA in 2016 for $476,000.
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