The city is diving in once again to completing its Shoreline Master Program.
After taking a few months off to take stock of where they’ve been and where the current will take them next, Spokane Valley officials informally paddled forward on the plan, which had been beached since last summer.
“At this point we want to pick up with the goals and policies (of the plan),” Lori Barlow told members of the City Council and Planning Commission in a rare joint meeting Tuesday night. “I think we should be able to start in late March.”
Spokane Valley needs to complete its Shoreline Master Program – which has been in the works since 2009 – by the end of 2013. Barlow outlined a schedule that would make that possible, but just under the wire.
“We feel like we’re in good shape,” Barlow said.
After the council approves the program – following public review and comment – the plan will have to be approved by the Washington state Department of Ecology, a process which could take some time.
“It could take months and months and months once it gets to the Department of Ecology,” Barlow said.
Along the way, the city will receive some legal advice from Van Ness Feldman Gordon Derr, a Seattle-based law firm, to provide legal support and provide information that will hopefully result in DOE’s support of the plan. Two of the attorneys from the firm were present at Tuesday’s meeting, and reassured the council that the plan will ultimately be the city’s, not the state’s.
“It’s not our job to come in here and tell you what to do,” Jay Derr said. “It’s to tell you what your range of options are and to make it defensible.”
Tadas Kisielius added that the trick will be balancing the needs of development with those of protecting the city’s shorelines, which include not only the Spokane River but also Shelley Lake and the city’s gravel pits that reach down into the aquifer beneath Spokane Valley.
“There’s no cookie-cutter approach,” Kisielius said.
The city since incorporation in 2003 has been using the same shoreline program adopted by Spokane County in the 1970s. Needs have changed since then, and state law necessitates that the plan be updated under the overriding caveat of “no net loss” to ecological functions of shorelines in the city.
Planning Commission Member Steven Neill said he doesn’t “see how that’s possible.”
The attorneys said there is science – and creative ways of construction – that exist to make it possible under the intent of the law. There is a basic assumption that development will continue to happen along shorelines.
“But it’s how you do it and that it’s done in a way where you’re not losing ground,” Kisielius said.
Mayor Tom Towey said he was concerned about moving too deeply into a plan that could ultimately be rejected by the state.
“Some of it’s a negotiation,” Derr said, adding that where he and other attorneys will be involved in the process.
“It’s my job to say, ‘You’ve passed this line and you’re likely picking a fight,’” Derr said.