Mines may be fine in some places, but Spokane Valley City Council members said Tuesday they don’t dig them in urban areas.
With that in mind – plus the looming update of the city’s state-mandated comprehensive plan – council members voted unanimously to pass an emergency ordinance forbidding new mining operations, or the expansion of existing ones, in the city limits.
The ordinance does not affect existing businesses like Central Pre-Mix, which has two large gravel pits in industrial areas – one on Sullivan Road north of the river and another near Broadway Avenue at Park Road -- which conducts some of the only related “mining” that goes on in the city.
But such large-scale operations, which have nothing to do with digging for silver or gold, create huge pits over a great amount of space. The property is nearly always irreversibly affected, even with planned reclamation efforts, limiting future use.
“They take up a considerable amount of acreage,” said Mike Jackson, city manager, when presenting the ordinance that had not been an item on the initial regular-meeting agenda. “It’s a permanent impact on the landscape.”
The ordinance will require a public hearing, which is scheduled for March 24. The moratorium is in effect for a year or until permanent regulations are adopted, whichever comes first. It prohibits new applications for mining and/or related activities, such as excavations, mineral product manufacturing, mineral process, stockpiling and mineral batching.
City Council members, who are largely pro-business, said they are supportive of city staffers looking more closely at the existing rules and adapting them to Spokane Valley’s growing urban character.
“It’s not appropriate for 30-to-40-acre gravel pits to be in an urban area,” said Mayor Dean Grafos.
The gravel pits began operation before the city incorporated 12 years ago.
“This looks like a carryover from when we were part of the county,” Council Member Ben Wick said.
Related mining operations have caused problems in the past. In 2001, many criticized plans by Spokane Rock Products Co. to construct an asphalt plant at an old rock quarry in the area of Eighth Avenue and Havana Road. The project had been approved because the permit had been applied for under an earlier Spokane County mining zone classification in that area.