Council hears update on strides in River District
By Craig Howard
While the frozen conditions of mid-winter may not translate into peak construction time in Liberty Lake, the city's north side appears to be on an encouraging schedule for development according to the area's leading builder.
Such was the takeaway at the Feb. 4 Liberty Lake City Council meeting as Kevin Schneidmiller, land manager for Greenstone Homes, provided the governing board with an update on the buildout of the River District, the ambitious 650-acre mixed use area that many say represents the future of Spokane County's easternmost jurisdiction.
Schneidmiller's presentation addressed the importance of establishing the necessary infrastructure for the burgeoning project, including a new sewer lift station. A temporary lift station serving the area from Bitterroot Street to Harvard Road is now at capacity, Scheidmilller said.
Greenstone has had ongoing discussions with the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District about plans for additional water and sewer infrastructure, Schneidmiller added. He told council that the installation of the lift station and additional street paving will be keys to generating interest in the River District from a commercial standpoint.
"It's normal that commercial activity lags behind residential growth," he said. "They want to see the infrastructure in place."
Schneidmiller said the completion of Harvest Parkway last fall represented a literal and symbolic inroad into the heart of the River District's retail area known as Telido Station. The pending street construction agenda also includes the extension of Indiana, and Greenstone will make a decision on the paving of Indiana from Bitterroot to Harvard in the next 90 days.
Schneidmiller said Greenstone would like to discuss the future of parks and open space in the River District with the city with a goal of solidifying plans within the next 18 months. He said it would be important to clarify if developing sites like West Riverview Park would be established as public or private venues. If the city did have a stake in such properties, council would need to look at maintenance and long-term costs, Schneidmiller advised.
"We look forward to having those discussions sooner than later," Schneidmiller said.
While greenspace development will be integral in the growth of the River District, Greenstone is also looking at keeping some of the natural areas in place.
"Some of that will stay native along the river and not be highly developed," Schneidmiller said.
The River District added 53 residential units last year. Schneidmiller said buildout of the area could mean between 2,000 and 2,500 new dwellings by 2040.
Harvard Plan to be amended
At the Feb. 18 meeting, City Administrator Katy Allen provided council with an overview of pending amendments to the Harvard Road Mitigation Plan, established in 1996 as a means for landowners and developers to offset the impact of traffic related to new construction. Allen noted that the fund, implemented five years before the incorporation of Liberty Lake, does not recognize current municipal boundaries nor pricing for traffic calming mechanisms like roundabouts and signals.
"Spokane County managed this before Liberty Lake took over in 2001," Allen said. "The original plan includes the area south of Sprague and the River District is outside of the boundary."
The city collected $110,000 from developers for the Harvard Road Mitigation Fund in 2013. Projects like the pedestrian bridge and Harvard Road roundabout have benefitted from the fund in the past.
Allen provided an update on the process of amending the plan at the Feb. 18 council meeting, referring to an open house held for developers and builders at City Hall on Feb. 13. The city also hosted a follow-up gathering on Feb. 20.
Much of the discussion revolves around the city's proposed change to something called the mitigation plan's "trip fee" that has not been altered since 2001. Under the amended plan, the base fee would go from $473.51 to $714.01. The fee for a single family residential dwelling would also increase dramatically, jumping over $200 to a new rate of $628.33.
The fee is calculated by of the number of trips generated by a new structure. The city has conducted detailed research on the corresponding need for traffic infrastructure as development occurs. Led by City Engineer Andrew Staples, the study estimates a cost of $8.4 million for a list of future projects that includes signals or roundabouts at various intersections as well as a new I-90 interchange.
While the cost is no small matter - projections include $456,146 for a signal at Appleway and Henry and $539,707 for a roundabout at Country Vista and Mission - Allen emphasized that "the time span for these projects is driven by development."
Allen advised council that the funding for such infrastructure will rely on the impact fees paid by developers, adding that similar fees in the city of Spokane "run north of $1,000." Meanwhile, mitigation dollars collected from the emerging River District are eligible for matching funds through a pair of funding mechanisms - Tax Increment Financing and Local Infrastructure Financing Tool.
Marijuana moratorium feedback
The second public hearing on Feb. 18 - regarding the city's six-month moratorium on the processing, sale and use of marijuana - failed to produce a single comment at City Hall, although more than 120 comments have been received on the city's website. Peterson said the majority of the feedback supported the City Council's decision on the heels of the State Attorney General Bob Ferguson's statements that Initiative 502, passed in 2012, did not take precedence over zoning laws already established in cities and towns across Washington.
A survey conducted by the city found that 58.8 percent of respondents agreed with the moratorium while 30.2 percent opposed it and 9 percent remained neutral. Of those who gave their opinion, 83 percent claimed residency in the city of Liberty Lake.
Peterson said comments regarding the municipal moratorium on marijuana are still being accepted at the city's website.
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In the Books, On the Docket
A look back and ahead at business conducted by the Liberty Lake City Council
By Craig Howard
In the Books (February):
• City Administrator Katy Allen and Mayor Steve Peterson gave a report on their visit to Olympia as part of the Greater Spokane Inc. legislative forum Jan. 22-24. Allen said Liberty Lake's central message to lawmakers revolved around improvements to Interstate-90 from Barker Road to the Idaho state line. "We didn't come back with a barrel full of money but the good news is that they heard us," Allen said.
• In response to a citizen comment about public art, Allen recommended that the council consider setting aside funds for art in the next municipal budget and organize a committee "to identify public art projects."
• Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Griffin is spearheading a discussion with Friends of Pavillion Park involving an idea to combine the community's traditional July 4 celebration with the city-sponsored "Liberty Lake Days."
• Finance Director R.J. Stevenson gave an official year-end budget report, highlighted by sales tax revenue that exceeded projections by $190,000 in 2013. Building permit income was up $200,000 over expectations while Trailhead Golf Course brought in $80,000 more than anticipated last year.
• Council unanimously approved Mayor Peterson to sign a task order with Welch Comer Engineers for design services on the Town Square Park project as well as all phases of the Appleway Avenue Beautification and Rehabilitation project.
• Council unanimously approved Peterson's appointment of Tricia Morgan to the Liberty Lake Municipal Library Board of Trustees.
• Allen gave an update on the city's snow plowing efforts, reporting that $17,567 has been spent for de-icing and clearing to this point. At the same juncture last year, the city had expended $47,537.
On the Docket (March):
• Allen said the city will schedule a series of workshops in the coming months, beginning with a discussion of the parks, trails and open space plan in March. A workshop on capital improvements to Trailhead Golf Course will follow in April, while a conversation on I-90 upgrades will take place in May. Allen added that the Washington Department of Transportation plans to repave a stretch of I-90 from the Barker Road to the Idaho border later this year.
• The city has received the illuminated pedestrian crossing devices and is waiting for warm weather to install the equipment. The first crossings will be situated at the intersection of Mission and Country Vista as well as an area across from the Liberty Lake Library and Police Department building.
• A dedication for Harvest Parkway - a road in the area of the River District slated for retail development - will take place in March at a date and time to be announced.
• Council will hear an update on the city's personnel manual and the local government investment pool.
• The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 4 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.