A land purchase for the potential expansion of Balfour Park would not necessarily have to wait for the city of Spokane Valley to update its Parks Master Plan.
That, at least, was the opinion of the city’s head attorney and top manager at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Some members of the council have been itching to move forward with a partnership with the Spokane County Library District on land on the north side of Sprague at Herald Road that would be divided between SCLD and the city. A new library – replacing the aging Spokane Valley Library at 12004 E. Main – could be built on the west side, while the city expands Balfour Park to the west.
No price tag on the land, owned by Pring Corp., had been revealed as of yet.
Tuesday, Mike Stone, city parks director, gave an overview on the progress of the city’s Master Parks Plan update. The plan, which has been in existence since 2006, needs to be updated in order to better reflect the current state of the city and its recreation needs going into the future.
“We don’t intend to reinvent the document,” Stone told the council. “We want to update it and make it more relevant.”
Stone added the city will work with outside consultants and city citizens on the update. The consultant is expected to be hired next month, the updated plan developed over the spring and summer, with the council set to review the final document in August.
Council Member Chuck Hafner asked about the cost of hiring a consultant, but Stone said he preferred to keep that number to himself as “based on experience” potential contractors zero in on the budgeted amount.
Council Member Dean Grafos – who, like other council members under the Positive Change banner, has had his campaign financially benefit from Pring Corp.’s Jack Pring – asked if there is any legal reason the city couldn’t move forward on the Balfour project before the updated plan is ratified. Cary Driskell, city attorney, said it could be done.
“The state recognizes that land purchases can be retroactive,” said City Manager Mike Jackson. “Land does get sold.”
SCLD has tentatively set plans for a 2015 bond election for $50 million for the eight-acre land buy and to fund library construction projects throughout Spokane County. The new library at Sprague and Herald would be approximately 50,000 square feet and include a 200-seat auditorium, conference rooms and study areas. The existing library on Main would be closed.
In other news, Stone also asked for council direction on the long-simmering proposal to construct a gateway sign near the freeway interchange on Sprague Avenue. Council members have zeroed in on a design they like for the sign – which incorporates the city’s mountain-and-river logo bordered by a pair of rock masonry pillars – however, it’s the landscaping around the sign they’re having trouble envisioning along with the $100,000-plus price tag.
“I’d be the first to agree with you that we want to do a first-class job on this project,” Stone said, “but we also want to get the most bang for our buck.”
What the majority of the council does not want to see is large trees overshadowing the sign or blocking the view of neighboring businesses at Thierman Road.
“That’s not really the goal,” said Council Member Brenda Grassel.
Hafner said he like the sign, but is still leery of the cost.
“I look at the $100,000 and think we have to look to the citizens in the city to help provide that money,” he said, citing civic groups like the Kiwanis who could get involved in fund-raising or volunteer efforts to develop the site. “I think that’s a great idea.”
A sculpture donated by the Spokane Valley Arts Council also presents another opportunity to develop the small, triangular piece of land where Appleway meets Sprague. However, not knowing what it will look like, its size or its ultimate location also has raised questions.
Still, Grafos said he is anxious to proceed.
“I think this is a really, really important part of dressing up that corridor,” he said.
Stone said the council can make suggestions along the way.
“This is nothing more than a concept,” he said, adding that different alternatives are possible. “This is just a proposal that says the sign is going to go in this general location and the sculpture will go in this general location.”
More information will be brought to the council at a future meeting.