Second conditional use permit hearing scheduled March 10; Cheney Spokane Road residents still opposed
Cheney Spokane Road residents about a half mile northeast of Cheney will once again find themselves making a case before a Spokane County hearing examiner in opposition to construction of a proposed airstrip north and northeast of their property.
A hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 10, at 9 a.m. in the Spokane County Commissioners Hearing room in the lower level of the Public Works Building to take testimony on a conditional use permit filed by Silverbird, LLC and its owner Dennis Reed. Reed owns a 151-acre piece of property north of the Cheney Spokane Road and proposes to build a 2,500-foot-long, 250-foot-wide air strip on the lower portion of the sloped parcel which is zoned Rural Traditional.
In a Nov. 18, 2010 Cheney Free Press story, Reed said the project would fill a demand to build a private airstrip with adjacent residential development of up to 15 high-end homes. The airstrip would serve 15 small planes, with up to 21 flights per week. Reed currently has an airstrip located at the top of the hill from which he flies light and ultralight aircraft.
"It's a high end residential aviation community with less than an hour of noise a week total," he said in 2010. "I think it's awfully hard to argue with that in lieu of what the zoning code allows."
A count of the listings under the matrix in the county's Rural Traditional Zone, Section 14.618, indicates 88 permitted uses in this type of zone. One of those is a private airstrip or heliport, listed under agricultural uses, which requires a conditional use permit.
In 2010 residents near Reed along Cheney Spokane Road had just a few days notice with which to mount opposition. They formed a group, the Prosser Hill Coalition, of about 20 members, and presented their case to hearing examiner Mike Dempsey.
Dempsey originally ruled in favor of Reed's conditional use permit, with some conditions, prompting an appeal by the coalition. In 2011 a Superior Court judge granted the appeal, which was based on the coalition's contentions Reed hadn't given proper public notification - he posted his required signs on Jensen Road to the west instead of Cheney Spokane Road. Reed then appealed this decision to the Washington State Appeals Court, which upheld the Superior Court's ruling.
Since then, Prosser Hill Coalition president Lisa Watts-McKee said the group has grown to over 70 members, 45 of whom are active, and has continued to fund retaining legal counsel. The new hearing date has given them more time to prepare than 2010, which Watts-McKee said means they will also present more experts to argue their position.
"What we essentially have is an opportunity to go around again with the hearing notice," she said.
As they did in 2010, the coalition contends Reed's airstrip isn't a proper fit for the neighborhood, citing everything from high noise levels to the danger of wildlife strikes, crashes, fire hazards, fuel storage issues and diminished property values. Watts-McKee wouldn't disclose how much the coalition members have paid so far in legal counsel and experts' retainage fees, but feels it's not as much as Reed has. If it leads to denying the airstrip's conditional use permit and maintaining their lifestyle and property values, the price is right.
"When you look at it, even if it's a 10 percent hit (in resale value) at the time of sale, that could be a sizeable chunk, so the investment is worth it," she said.
A county staff report on the project was made available Monday, March 3. After review the Cheney Free Press attempted to contact Reed's designated contact by phone for comments and received an email that those questions must be submitted in writing. At press time those questions had not been returned.
The March 10 hearing could possibly be continued to Wednesday, March 12, if more testimony needs to be taken.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.