After 17 years, it looks like Spokane County will finally get “the cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae.”
On Tuesday, county commissioners unanimously agreed to purchase the “Big Rock” area of Dishman Hills with $439,250 – a “fair-market-value amount – in voter-approved Conservation Futures funding. The land buy, which will include a county-built parking area, is the culmination of recreation-area acquisition in the Dishman Hills area that goes back to 1994.
The problem, according to Spokane County Parks Director Doug Chase, had been trying to find a seller who was willing to let the county have the land for its appraised value. That’s when the Dishman Hills Natural Area association stepped in to buy the 80 acres back in 2009, and in turn sell it to Spokane County.
The only other snag has been acquiring right-of-way for access to the Big Rock area, which consists of large boulders popular for rock climbing. There are also numerous established trails for hiking and mountain-biking that – much to the chagrin of several area property owners – has only been able to be accessed by cars parking on or adjacent private land downhill. But the county has been able to secure 10 acres of private land to alleviate the issue.
For his part, Commissioner Mark Richard – who represents the Spokane Valley area where Dishman Hills is located – said he’s pleased to finally put the land purchase to rest.
“Excellent work,” he said. “This is a phenomenal stretch of property.”
The Dishman Hills association and Spokane County have together secured more than 1,000 acres of recreation land in the area that is now in the public trust. The county has always wanted to use Conservation Futures dollars – a popular, three-time, voter-approved program that seeks to use property tax money to protect environmentally sensitive land from development – but was stymied because it could legally only make the deal work if it was bought at appraised value.
The land is continued the “cherry” of all of Spokane County’s Dishman Hills property because it is a natural extension of the 800 acres of Iller Creek land the county already owns.
Rather than rely on cash, the Dishman Hills association swapped land 80 acres of land with Spokane Investors LLC that included a creek and local access road.
In other news, the commissioners tweaked ballot language for a Nov. 8 general election question that, if approved, would cost property owners 5.8 cents per $1,000 in assessed valuation in order to fund the construction of a new, more easily accessible county animal shelter.
The question will now be a “measure” and not a “proposition” so as to not confuse the issue with other ballot items. There will also be clarifying language that the proposed tax levy – which can be passed with a simple majority – will not last more than nine years and will be specific to the shelter construction plans.
Richard voiced his opposition to the language changes – last month he voted against putting the question on the ballot – and voted no.