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CV board clears way for sale of lot to city
11/14/2012 10:14:57 AM

By Josh Johnson
Splash Staff Writer

In a deal more than five years in the making, the Central Valley School District board of directors cleared the way Tuesday for a vacant lot next to Liberty Lake Elementary School to be temporarily sold to the city of Liberty Lake so it can be improved into recreational athletic fields.

The Liberty Lake City Council is expected to vote this coming Tuesday on the same purchase and sale agreement and its accompanying option agreement that allows the CVSD to purchase the land back. The agreements stipulate a sales price of $10 to the city. The school district can purchase the lot back at any time in the next 99 years for $10 - plus the fair market value of any improvements the city makes to the property during its time of ownership.

"Our Council has been very enthusiastic and very supportive about this transaction," Liberty Lake City Administrator Katy Allen told the school board during a public hearing it held about the property Tuesday. "We've included $200,000 in our 2013 budget to make some improvements, either extend the irrigation system, start building fields, those sort of things. We also doubled the size of the ground crew in our proposed budget so we will be able to take care of the site until it actually develops out."

CVSD Superintendent Ben Small said a middle school is planned to one day be built on the site, but "our plan right now shows that may not be for 10 to 15 years." He said the lot is currently "weeds" that costs the district to mow.

"I think by doing (this) it puts a vacant piece of property to use for our kids and the betterment of our community as we move forward," Small said.

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He added that the agreements were vetted by both entities' legal teams and represent a win-win situation.

In her comments, Allen emphasized that the city's intent for the property would both by agreement and practice be in line with the school district's eventual intentions for a middle school site.

"The concept site design that Mr. Small provided us - that is going to be the foundation for how the construction is going to occur," she said. "It is a collaborative effort where before we build anything, it will be in concert with communication with the school district."

Small said the $10 price tag was arrived at because the district didn't want to take money that could be used for developing the property out of the city's coffers.

"It would take money way from the city of Liberty Lake that they would then use to develop the fields which is what we want them to be developed into - the ability for our kids to use recreational facilities," Small said.

Two Liberty Lake residents testified during the public hearing, offering different perspectives on the proposal.

Sharilyn Norin, who lives near the property, said while she has a son who plays baseball, she wouldn't want the fields so near the surrounding residential neighborhoods. She said that the Chicago neighborhood where she grew up was also near ballfields. 

"They were used for a lot of youth functions, but they were also used for some adult softball leagues and stuff like that," Norin said. "So there were beer bottles in our bushes and a lot of foul language."

Norin said she didn't want a "baseball complex" right next to her home and felt the idea benefited "Little League and not the  community in general."

Jennifer Tomlinson, who with her husband founded Eastside Little League and has long advocated for the middle school site to be developed early for recreational use, thanked the school board members for their consideration of the option and for bringing the conversation to the point of decision. She held up a document from 2007 in which she had asked a prior school board to consider the project.

"Every town has a baseball field," Tomlinson said. "Liberty Lake doesn't have one, and I just really want to thank you for  considering putting it in our city so we can have the opportunity for the students to not have to drive to the north side to play a decent game of baseball."

Later in the meeting, the school board passed the agreements unanimously with no discussion.

"I think it's really important that we continue to signal to the community of Liberty Lake that that site is intended to be used for a middle school, that we will develop that middle school as soon as we have the funds to do so and as soon as the enrollment in our middle schools warrant the placement of the middle school," Small said.