Our Voice: Thumbs up to development company for listening to its Richland neighbors

May 4, 2014 

Encouraging development

To Nor Am Investment for listening to neighboring property owners and withholding support for a sewer line that could run through Reata Canyon.

The Lakewood-based developer owns the largest block of land that would be included in a local improvement district to extend sewer service to Badger Mountain South.

Nor Am and other landowners in two areas recently annexed by Richland -- including the Badger Mountain South area and about 140 acres in the Reata Road area -- are considering forming a local improvement district to finance sewer infrastructure to serve their properties.

The canyon route would be cheaper than the alternatives because it could accommodate a gravity system instead of requiring a pumping station. But litigation could eat up any savings.

Neighboring residents consider the canyon to be a "natural jewel" and worry about the harm that building a sewer line would cause to the many kinds of plants and wildlife that live there.

In response to the concerns, Nor Am Investment "indicated that the schedule and process uncertainties surrounding (the canyon route) make it impossible for them to support a LID petition with this alternative included," according to information from the city.

Loren Combs, a representative of Nor Am and project manager of the Badger Mountain South master planned community, said, "We think there are other options available."

He described the canyon as "sacred ground" to the residents who live around it.

It's good when those who speak out are heard.

Right to know

To the Idaho judge who agreed to close the preliminary hearing for a 14-year-old accused of murdering his father and younger brother.

His public defender asked to close the proceedings, arguing that sensitive information disclosed during the hearing could jeopardize Eldon Gale Samuel III's right to a fair trial and affect his chances for rehabilitation.

Magistrate Judge Clark A. Peterson said he considered the rights of "a very unique defendant" against the need to preserve public access to the courts, the Spokesman Review newspaper in Spokane reported.

Maybe so, but he reached the wrong conclusion. Samuel is accused of a horrific crime. He is being tried as an adult.

Regardless, closing the hearing keeps the public from observing the court system, which the people own and which acts on their behalf. But keeping people from the hearing won't really keep disturbing details of the crime secret. Peterson said he wasn't sealing Samuel's court record or future hearings, the Spokesman reported. So the notion that disclosing details about his disturbing crime and dysfunctional family life will hurt rehabilitation doesn't hold water.

Concerns that the pretrial hearing could taint the jury are legitimate, but remedies exist that don't close the workings of our judicial system to the public. A change of venue, for example, is a common way to avoid the effects of pretrial publicity without violating the people's right to watch our courts in action.

Based on the hearing, the judge will decide whether there's enough evidence against Samuel to proceed to trial. The public has a clear and appropriate interest in knowing how that decision is made. That interest can't be met behind closed doors.

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