The Spokane Valley City Council’s continuing frustration at not being able to do more to put its stamp on the developing Shoreline Master Program bubbled over again on Tuesday night.
During its regular study session, council members were briefed by Lori Barlow, city planner for community development, on how the Shoreline Advisory Group had just completed its review of the draft goals and policies developed for the update of the Shoreline Master Program. The council had requested a peek at the draft before it was put up for public review later this summer.
This is just the latest phase of the update process that began in 2009 and isn’t likely to be finished until 2013, Barlow said. The final document will cover everything on shoreline management from the Spokane River to Shelley Lake to the Central Pre-Mix gravel pit – an oddity, for sure, but something that needs to be considered.
“It’s unique to our situation to have addressed gravel pits,” she said.
Barlow said it wasn’t her intention to get into the nuts and bolts of the goals and policies segment of the draft document on Tuesday, rather the briefing was simply to give an overview prior to a City Council/Planning Commission joint meeting scheduled for later this summer. The Planning Commission would then hold a public hearing on the subject and make a recommendation on the draft before the council’s final approval.
But at least two council members – Brenda Grassel and Arne Woodard – expressed concerns over that process and hoped the council could be more involved earlier – especially in regard to topics such as setbacks or other development regulations.
“At what point do we really get the opportunity to have these discussions?” she said.
Barlow said that would happen later in the process, but the council could get more in depth on the detail-oriented subjects when it meets with the Planning Commission. The council’s ultimate say, however, wouldn’t happen until after the commissioner submitted its recommendation.
Woodard, however, said he was fearful that the city would be “locked in” to language within the document that the council might not want in there if it waited too far along into the process.
“Prior to it going to the Planning Commission…some of the wording here, quite frankly, scares the heck out of me.” Woodard said. “We’ve lost our absolute right for control, as citizens.”
Grassel then said she couldn’t find in the first-page summary of the background materials where it stated that the council would meet with the Planning Commission prior to the public review process. That information was located on page 2 of a three-page memo and in the text of the PowerPoint presentation, all included in the council packet provided beforehand.
“I’m sorry, apparently I could have made that a little clearer for your understanding,” Barlow said.
In May, Grassel cast the only vote against applying for a $125,000 grant from the Department of Ecology that would help pay for the ongoing update of the program because she said she was fearful there could be strings attached.
As far as Woodard’s concerns go, Barlow explained that the process is broken down in parts so the council could digest it piece by piece before final approval. More importantly, she said, the city’s Shoreline Master Program is designed to have come from the citizens.
“One of the essences of this act is that it’s intended to meet the grassroots’ needs of the community,” she said. “We designed this process to capture the essence of the act, which is: go to the community and find out what their needs are.”
Mayor Tom Towey said that it is the state Department of Ecology will have the final say whether or not the city’s Shoreline Master Program is
in compliance with the state Shoreline Management Act.
“The ultimate authority, I believe, is the state,” he said. “They can either accept our document or reject it.”
In other news, the council heard reports on the following subjects:
- Sculpture donation – Dr. James Harken of the Spokane Valley Arts Council reported that the dedication of the latest sculpture the group is donated to the city, “The Berry Picker,” will take place on Aug. 5
- Indiana speed limits – City staff recommended that speed limits be increased from 25 mph to 35 on Indiana Avenue from Sullivan to Flora roads.
- Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan – City staff suggested adding another chapter in the city comprehensive plan in order to incorporate the Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan. After plenty of discussion, it was decided to that more time was needed to review the plan before moving forward with any official action.