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News In Brief 

by Editorial Staff

No Walk in the Park -- SPOKANE -- Wal-Mart's smiley-faced promotions just aren't keeping residents adjacent to the new north Spokane store happy. Residents of the Nevada-Lidgerwood neighborhood say a park that was supposed to be built at the same time as the store is still just a dirt lot, torn up by motorists looking for a shortcut.

"You can see the tire patterns going right into the dirt," says Jeanie Wagenman, a member of the neighborhood council. "Any vegetation there is going to be destroyed."

In February 1999, when voters approved the sale of property that ultimately became the soon-to-open Wal-Mart, they also decided that four acres of that property should be made into a community park. But there's no park.

The area, between Colton and Maxine streets, has recently been turned into a cul-de-sac at the request of residents, who feared the new Wal-Mart would cause more cut-through traffic.

Wagenman says the cul-de-sac doesn't have adequate barriers and that motorists are going off-road to cut across to Colton. She wants the traffic department to put up better barriers.

"I am concerned about the safety of the children who will eventually play there," says Wagenman. "It is well worth the expense to provide safety."

Mike Stone, director of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, says that construction on the park could not begin until Wal-Mart had been built. Construction couldn't begin last summer, he says, because his department didn't have the money for it.

Now that Wal-Mart is finished, $200,000 from the Parks Department and the Aurora-Northwest Chapter of the Rotary Club is going toward the completion of the park.

As for the traffic problem, Stone hopes that the park will "act as a buffer between the residential side and the Wal-Mart." The park should be completed by October. -- Leah Sottile

Plan Ahead -- SPOKANE -- The final implementation of the city's new Comprehensive Plan is getting closer. On Tuesday, March 5, the planning department is hosting an open house, showcasing a handful of draft visions for some of the designated centers and corridors.

"We have been working with the areas around Broadway and Maple, Ninth and Perry, North Market or Hillyard, and the Holy Family Hospital area," says Leroy Eadie, program manager for neighborhood and environmental planning for the city. "We want to get in touch with everyone who works, lives and plays there."

But there'll be no cute little cardboard models made just to scale -- so far the visions are just words.

"Each vision is about two pages, and they come from the workshops we held back in January with the neighborhood stakeholders," says Eadie. "We haven't gotten to the planning phase yet."

The next step in the process is to assure that the visions can be carried out.

"We are going to look at fiscal barriers and market barriers up front," says Eadie. "There are no pie-in-the-sky plans here." -- Pia K. Hansen

The open house is on Tuesday, March 5, from 6-8 pm at the Arena's Champions Room. Call: 625-6187.

Some Light Conversation -- SPOKANE -- We need to talk. It's about River Park Square. See, there are seven or eight lawsuits filed by various parties (attorneys filed 11, but judges have consolidated a few of them).

There are also the continuing questions of mediation and settlement. So, let's chat, said the members of the Spokane City Council as they recently voted to hold a special meeting to discuss the city's parking garage quagmire.

The meeting will be held this Saturday, and everyone is invited. It will also be broadcast live on government-access Channel 5, and replayed Sunday at noon and Monday at 10 am.

River Park Square litigation is complex, though some questions are straightforward, such as these: Did the city fail to make a promised loan for the developer? Was the city knowingly misled by its partner in the deal?

Last year, the city spent about $350,000 on RPS litigation, says City Attorney Mike Connelly. City councilors are scheduled to discuss spending up to $600,000 this year, at Monday's regular meeting.

Litigation -- which is supported by several council members -- so far has been a "disaster," says Council President Rob Higgins, who supports mediating the matter out of court. Higgins alone voted against holding the special meeting, which he believes is a waste of time. "The only people profiting on this are attorneys," he says.

The meeting is Saturday, March 2, from 10 am-noon in council chambers at City Hall. Call: 625-6740.
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