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Droning On 

Of police drones, settlements and zoning

click to enlarge The Spokane Police Department isn\'t looking into drone technology now, but may in the future.
  • The Spokane Police Department isn\'t looking into drone technology now, but may in the future.

Eyes In The Sky

Spokane police may not be using drone technology today, but City Council President Ben Stuckart wants to make sure he knows about it when they do. Stuckart is introducing an ordinance that would require council approval for any police purchase or use of drones in the city.

“I think that as technology advances and surveillance advances … it’s better to have this protection in place,” Stuckart told the council’s Public Safety Committee this week.

Police Chief Frank Straub, who supports the ordinance, assured the committee his department isn’t eyeing drone use now, but could far in the future.

Stuckart plans to take the proposal to neighborhood council representatives and then to the full council for a vote next month.

— HEIDI GROOVER

Settling

The city of Spokane has agreed to a $49,500 settlement with Charles Potter, who last year sued the city and two police officers over a confrontation at the Davenport Hotel back in 2008.

Potter was arrested as he watched police arrest two other men at the hotel. He says officers were brutalizing the men so he wanted to observe. Police claimed they told him to step back and he refused. Potter spent a night in jail and was banned from the Davenport. He also was charged with obstructing justice and resisting arrest, but was found not guilty.

According to the settlement, the police chief will send Potter a letter of regret and the city will “use its best efforts to persuade the Davenport” to let him back in.

— HEIDI GROOVER

The Zoning Blues

Currently, Kootenai County’s zoning rules are cobbled together from a mishmash of dozens of different ordinances.

“People are very unhappy, especially in the development community, with the codes we’ve had in place for darn near 30 years,” says Kootenai County Commissioner Dan Green.

That’s about to change. For two years, the Kootenai County Planning and Zoning Commission and a planning consultant firm have been developing a Unified Land Use Code.

But sweeping zoning changes never go down easy. Realtors, property owners and environmentalists have serious complaints about the new regulations. A raucous meeting Monday over the code became so full it was shut down by the fire marshal.

Rick Vernon, executive officer for the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors, says the main problem is complexity.

“Anybody that wants to know what it says would be hard-pressed to figure that out,” Vernon says. Furthermore, the new zoning code has incensed many rural landowners by limiting their ability to subdivide their property and sell it off in small chunks.

Adrienne Cronebaugh, executive director of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, supports many of the changes. “Overall, it is a much-improved document from the dated patchwork ordinances that have been in effect,” she says.

But the KEA also has an objection: The Unified Land Use Code waters down the buffer zone limiting construction around lakes. The closer development is to a lake’s high-water mark, the greater the risk of contamination.

Next week, the planning commission will begin deliberating on the changes. In September, the recommendations are tentatively scheduled to come before the board of Kootenai County commissioners.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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