Action Alert: Development of Open Space in NW Spokane has Neighbors Concerned, Threatens Farmland

Author(s): 
Chrys Ostrander

 


The former Sundance Golf Course in Nine Mile Falls. Alas, all the trees in this photo were cut down in the last month.

UPDATE 01/31/2021

You STILL Have a Chance to Tell Spokane County:
"Reject plans to convert 88 acres of open space in NW Spokane to a 475-unit housing development."

Please share this with your neighbors and other concerned citizens.

The public hearing held on Wednesday, January 27th, 2021 ran overtime and will continue at:

9:00 AM on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021.  The Zoom Meeting Information to Join the Hearing is as follows:

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/99614878132?pwd=Zk1sVTcwOWlRN3ovZEI2YlNicWdZZz09

Meeting ID: 996 1487 8132
Passcode: 883892

Sundance Meadows, LLC of Otis Orchards seeks to develop a former 18-hole golf course into a large, 475 single-family-residence development in the Seven Mile Urban Growth Joint Planning Area adjacent to the City of Spokane's northwest extent. The project is located at 9725 N. Nine Mile Road, Spokane WA. "Joint Planning Area" means an area where both the City of Spokane and Spokane County have equal jurisdiction over planning issues. The project site has been closed to the public since 2019.  Sundance Meadows, LLC has submitted a preliminary plat application (P-2078) that is being considered by the Spokane County Planning Department. 
 
"Shape Our Highway 291 Community" is a local organization of neighbors, property owners, taxpayers, voters, and community members who feel they will be negatively impacted by the proposed Sundance Meadows development project. Shape Our Highway 291 Community advocates for intentional, sustainable growth for existing and future members of the community, adherence to regulatory guidelines, and protection of the health and well-being of residents and natural resources. Members of Shape Our Highway 291 Community are aggrieved by the county’s flawed decision-making in regards to how the County has handled various aspects of the permit approval process and opposes approval of the preliminary plat application.
 
Please take a few minutes to learn the issues involved and to contact the Spokane County Hearings Examiner to express your opposition to the approval of a preliminary plat application. We all know Spokane is growing, but that growth cannot be driven only by unbridled money-making designs of real estate developers. It must be a careful process with lots of public involvement, transparency and be regulated by government bodies that see their role as balancing the public good with the interests of business, not as bending over backwards to enable every businessman's whim.
 
Written comments will be accepted until 4:00 p.m. on January 20. Send written and digital comments to the Spokane County Department of Building and Planning, 1026 W. Broadway Ave., Spokane, WA 99260, Attn: Tammy Jones, File No. PN-2078-19. Email: tmjones@spokanecounty.org
 
A public hearing (on-line via Zoom) on the preliminary plat application will be held on January 27, 2021. See the following web pages for details about attending the hearing and/or testifying:
 
 
 
To be considered during the hearing, written materials or visuals will need to be submitted by 4:00 p.m. January 20 with documents allowed to be submitted both digitally and as hard copies. Email: tmjones@spokanecounty.org
 
Here is a summary of some of Shape Our Highway 291 Community's grievances:
 
The Sundance Golf Course operated for nearly 50 years. Over that period, as with most commercial golf courses, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides were used extensively to maintain the golf course. These chemicals contain metals (e.g., arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, silver) and organic compounds (e.g., DDT, heptachlor, chlordane, etc.). Shape Our Highway 291 Community contends the County is not taking the long-term consequences and future potential hazards associated with the contamination of the soil at the site seriously, including the risk to neighbors resulting from soil disruption during construction or to future residents who would live in the new housing development;
 
100% of the soil on the property is classified by the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service as "Prime" agricultural soil and high-volume wells on the property have been used for almost half a century to irrigate it. Instead of a dense housing development that would irreparably diminish the quality of life for residents in the area, and despite the probable contamination of the soil by chemicals (which can be reversed by well-known remediation methods), this property would enhance the quality of life for neighboring residents if instead it was to be converted to an organic farm;
 
The County has accepted data regarding the anticipated increase of vehicle traffic that fails to adequately account for the cumulative increased traffic pressures from this project combined with that from other housing developments slated for the same area;
 
The County has not addressed how the sewage from this and the other pending developments (totaling well over 1000 new households) will be handled;
 
Because the local school district has not adopted a development impact fee program to offset costs to the school system stemming from large influxes of new students resulting from new development, an undue burden is put on taxpayers to fund these costs and there's increased risk that the quality of education in the district will be degraded;.
 
Adequate measures have not been prescribed to address concerns about flooding and storm water mitigation resulting from replacing the natural water-absorbing capacity of 88 acres of soil with the impervious surfaces of a densely packed housing development-- streets, driveways, sidewalks and house sites;
 
The County, in its staff report that supports approval of the permit, has accepted inaccuracies about the wildlife on the property contained in the developer’s application;
 
Many more cars in the area will create additional hazards for bikers, walkers, runners and horseback riders accessing the nearby Riverside State Park;
 
The area is not in the City of Spokane and the lack of resources (fire, police, medical) in the area will create a huge burden for the county that is already lacking adequate resources to protect its citizens.
 
The project site is zoned low density residential (LDR) in the County's Comprehensive Plan but is designated as Open Space in the City's Comprehensive Plan. Since it is in a Joint Planning Area, this fundamental inconsistency in land-use designations by both jurisdictions is out of compliance with the state's Growth Management Act (GMA) which states that "comprehensive plans ... must be coordinated ... The comprehensive plan of each county or city that is adopted pursuant to [the GMA] shall be coordinated with, and consistent with, the comprehensive plans adopted [by] other counties or cities with which the county or city has, in part, common borders or related regional issues" such as a Joint Planning Area (RCW 36.70A.100). The proposed development would not be allowable in an area designated as Open Space.
 
In June, 2020, Spokane County approved a timber harvest application by Sundance Meadows, LLC whose intention was to clear away many of the tall Ponderosa Pine trees in preparation for constructing the housing development. Because the proposed development is adjacent to Riverside State Park, the State Parks Department included conditions on the timber permit to protect a 20-foot wide corridor of existing healthy trees around 45-50% of the perimeter of the course that abuts Riverside State Park,  protection of mature trees, setbacks from homes to protect existing trees and root systems, and the planting of conifers to fill gaps in the perimeter forest canopy. Sadly, Sundance Meadows, LLC, apparently not happy with the State Parks Department's timber harvest limitations, applied for and was issued in October, 2020 a clearing and grading permit which granted the company permission to clear cut the entire property. Clear cutting commenced in December and completed in January 2021. The tall, stately pines are now gone which pains many neighboring residents.
 
Many of these listed concerns are serious enough that a full environmental impact statement (EIS) should be prepared before any action to approve the preliminary plat application goes forward, but the County improperly determined, on the basis of inadequate and erroneous environmental data provided by the developer, that environmental concerns are not severe enough to warrant an EIS. The County also illegally allowed the developer to submit separate environmental reports for small pieces of the project instead of requiring one report for the entire project as required by the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), the neighborhood group contends.
 
For these reasons, the preliminary plat application should be rejected by the Spokane County Planning Department. Please do your part by contacting the Hearings Examiner to voice your opposition to the Sundance Meadows project application.
Edition: 
January, 2021