It’s unusual, to say the least, for a neighborhood to not want sidewalks.
That, however, is exactly the situation in the area of Blake Road near the unfinished portion of the Appleway Trail up to Eighth Avenue.
Unhappy residents in that area motivated an increasingly polarized City Council to rescind $270,000 in grant funds, which would have built a sidewalk on the east side of Blake, on Tuesday night.
“That a neighborhood would object to a sidewalk project stunned us all,” said Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard before voting with the majority of the council to turn down federal Community Development Block Grant funds, which would have mostly funded the $335,000 project.
The money will now go to other county projects, but none will be in the city of Spokane Valley.
Krisinda Marshall, who lives on Blake Avenue, has been one of the more vocal opponents of the sidewalk, saying the buffer would encourage drivers to speed and increase the potential of accidents.
“Just because someone gives you free money, it doesn’t mean you have to spend it,” she told the council.
Residents said they would rather see money spent on four-way stop signs at the problem intersections.
“You need to listen to the citizens’ opinion,” added David Starr.
The sidewalk project scored high for funding because it meets CDBG goals in providing improvements in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods and that it would connect a pedestrian trail to a street.
Council Member Sam Wood recused himself from the discussion and vote because he is chairman of the Carnhope Irrigation District -- which received $70,000 in CDBG funding -- board of directors.
Woodard sits on the on the Spokane County Community and Housing Development Committee, which recommends to county commissioners how the CDBF funds are allocated. Council Members Dean Grafos and Chuck Hafner – who have been at odds with the new council majority that removed former City Manager Mike Jackson last week -- said they have concerns whether Woodard has acted in the city’s best interest.
Grafos suggested that the state attorney general conduct and investigation.
That brought a reprimand and whack of the gavel from Mayor Rod Higgins, but Grafos said his concerns should be heard.
“I thought you represented the city of Spokane Valley?” Grafos asked Woodard.
Council Member Ed Pace said the issue was simple.
“If those who live right there don’t want (the sidewalk), let’s not do it,” he said.