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West Hills neighbors, developers sue city, non-profits to stop transitional housing project

A group of neighbors and developers in Spokane’s West Hills neighborhood has filed a lawsuit to stop the city and homeless service provider Catholic Charities from opening a new supportive housing project in an old hotel.

The group’s lawsuit said the project could be considered a group home, or post-incarceration facility, because people on parole or probation might be allowed to live there. They argue the facility would violate state law, and that the city and non-profits involved hadn’t gone through a proper environmental review or permitting process. They’re asking a judge to approve a restraining order to stop the project from moving forward.

“Any group living facility can have significant adverse impacts on the environment, including without limitation: environmental health, noise, land use, aesthetics, historic and cultural preservation, transportation and public services,” read the lawsuit. “The establishment of a homeless group living facility within the corporate limits of the City of Spokane is an important and significant event and cannot be lawfully permitted without the approval of government agencies with jurisdiction.”

They also said the project could also damage nearby Finch Arboretum, where several rare and historic trees are located.

In a statement, Catholic Charities said the lawsuit is frivolous and without merit.

“We see this not only as a suit against Catholic Charities, but a suit against the poor, the vulnerable and the homeless of our community,” read the statement from Catholic Charities.

Friday afternoon, a spokesman for the mayor’s office said they were still reviewing the suit.

The project at the center of the dispute is a 100-bed facility for single adults, or couples, staying at the homeless camp next to I-90. It’s called the Catalyst, and is designed to move people of out homelessness and into permanent housing.

The group that filed the lawsuit is a newly formed corporation that includes Gib Brumback, Lisa Saddler, Michael Gifford and William Hagy, a group of local developers, business owners and neighborhood council members. They also addressed in their suit a potential pallet house project near the hotel.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.