It seems the coronavirus has infected a potential property sale for future park land.
At least for the time being.
On Tuesday night, Spokane Valley City Council members decided to pump the brakes on a nearly $2.1 million land purchase of surplus Washington State Department of Transportation land adjacent to Sullivan Park north of the Spokane River.
While staff and members of the public have been excited over the idea of expanding the park farther north – east of Flora Road and south of the Union Pacific Railroad train tracks – the 46-acre land purchased was put on pause after concerns of a potentially large economic downturn due to business closures in the wake of the COVID-19.
With sales taxes taking a hit due to bar and restaurant closures/limited service – plus the impacts to the Spokane Valley Mall with anchors like Macy’s shuttering its doors for the foreseeable future – Council Member Arne Woodard suggested that the city should investigate if WSDOT will be willing to wait before final approval.
“The mall is about 20 percent of our sales tax,” Woodard said. “I’m going to vote against (final approval) tonight.”
Former mayor and Council Member Rod Higgins reiterated a move toward caution.
“It might not be a bad idea to be conserving our resources,” he said. “We don’t know what’s coming down the road.”
City Attorney Cary Driskell said he is unsure if WSDOT is any hurry or not to sell the property. He said there are other buyers – one looking to construct a gravel pit, the other an apartment complex – and the city might want to move faster if it wants the land. But he said he would make some calls.
City Manager Mark Calhoun added, “This is a prime piece of real estate. They’re not making any more land; we’re not going to get this shot again.”
Ultimately, council members – even those heavily in favor of moving forward with the purchase – decided it was best to not be too hasty and see if the state will be willing to wait for a final decision.
“I think WSDOT is going to be open for asking for a delay,” said Council Member Linda Thompson. “I’d like to think they’d give us some leeway.”