When it comes to the extension of Appleway Avenue, the following quote sums it up best: “Not everyone is talking together.”
That statement, however, didn’t come from a recent city or county planning session. It came from ex-county Commissioner Phil Harris nearly three years ago.
Now, the issue is a little different, according to Mike Connelly, Spokane Valley city attorney.
“The talking is getting a little circular,” he said.
But arrested development in negotiations between the city of Spokane Valley and Spokane County for Appleway right-of-way could be at end. What happens next, however, will be up to county commissioners.
The Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with Connelly’s suggestion to reopen talks with county officials to acquire county-land east of University Road that could be used to extend Appleway Boulevard farther east.
Connelly’s plan involves city officials and county commissioners appointing representatives from each jurisdiction for mediation, along with a designee from Spokane Transit Authority, which has an interest in a high-speed commuter line. All would list their objectives, and there would be no preconditions for the talks, he said.
“I’d like to think that our goals and the county’s goals are mostly the same,” Connelly added.
The extension of Appleway is a critical component of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan, which also was passed by the council on Tuesday night. Mayor Richard Munson said Monday that acquiring Appleway is critical; otherwise the plan should be revised.
“I’d want to take a look at (the plan) again at the end of the year,” he said.
While it had been joked after Spokane Valley incorporated in 2003 that the county – which has owned the old railroad right-of-way since 1980 – would let the city have the property for a dollar, more serious negotiations became strained as each entity had its own set of restrictions before a deal could be struck.
Last year, the state Supreme Court dismissed city officials’ claims that the right-of-way should have been turned over to Spokane Valley at the time of incorporation. No formal negotiations have followed since then, and Munson earlier this year expressed his frustration that he did not believe the county would ever give up the land.
County officials, however, say they will gladly do so, provided the city pay for any additional land, called “pinch points,” that might be needed for a high-speed commuter corridor, possibly to be used for light rail.
It’s possible that property could be purchased by STA, which has previously expressed interest.
Council Member Rose Dempsey said she was worried that the city’s proposal seems “kind of pushy.”
Connelly said that the county can simply ignore the request if the commissioners don’t agree with the city’s suggestion on how to move forward.
Munson said he hoped that wouldn’t be the case.
“We need to resolve this,” he said. “Appleway (east of University) is an eyesore and it’s not accomplishing anything.”