I attended the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce “Zombie Breakfast” this morning at Mirabeau Park Hotel and got a chance to say hello to the new president and CEO of the chamber, Katherine Morgan. John Guarisco said that Morgan was selected from a group of 20 highly qualified applicants.
“It was very difficult,” Guarisco said, “but she was the one person who was just a bundle of passion for Spokane Valley.”
- I'm your new designated reporter and I am looking to have some fun with this blog, too. I just spent a good hour visiting with Carolbelle Branch at City Hall, and she helped me come up with a list of people and places to visit as I get a sense of my new beat.
I will be taking the blog on the road in Spokane Valley on a regular basis - hopefully once a week - and I encourage you to come out and meet with me. The easiest way to keep track of me is to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter; I will be posting invites there as I go. Story ideas are always welcome at email@example.com
The Valley’s first state-licensed recreational marijuana shop is hosting a grand opening celebration Friday.
Sativa Sisters is located in the former Planned Parenthood building at 10525 E. Trent Ave., just inside Millwood city limits. It plans on carrying marijuana from at least three regional producers, including a line of organic pot grown in nearby Lincoln County.
“It’s exciting,” said general manager Eric Skaar. “We haven’t even announced we’re opening and we’ve already got people stopping in.”
The store will keep daily operating hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and also offers smoking paraphernalia.
Friday’s celebration will include live music and a taco truck in the afternoon.
The store is the fourth to open in the Spokane area since July, when state regulators began issuing licenses to retail marijuana operations. The first three are in North Spokane. State regulators will allow up to 18 licensed retail shops throughout Spokane County, with eight allotted for the city of Spokane and three for the city of Spokane Valley.
Most of the first stores to open statewide have struggled with supply shortages that limited their hours of operation, but Skaar said he's confident Sativa Sisters will be able to maintain regular daily operating hours. He said that one of the reasons they're just now opening is because they wanted to have supply issues resolved ahead of time.
The city of Millwood issued the store a business license after concluding the location complied with zoning codes and other restrictions, officials said. The store also obtained city permits for renovations and other improvements to the property before opening.
Grocery Outlet plans to open its first Valley location next month.
The Berkeley, California-based company bills itself as a bargain grocer. The new 22,000-square-foot Valley location will be in the former Rite Aid drug store at 12115 E. Sprague Ave.. It will be the family-owned company's fourth Spokane-area store. It also has a store in Coeur d'Alene.
The announcement first appeared in Sunday's edition of The Spokesman-Review.
Spokane Valley has refinanced about $7 million worth of bonds issued in 2003 to take advantage of lower interest rates, which the city says will reduce overall debt service by more than $1.5 million over the next 20 years.
Contributing to the savings was the Valley’s recent credit rating upgrade by Moody’s Investor Services, officials said.
“We know our residents are concerned about the economy and we felt these cost reduction efforts were important,” said City Manager Mike Jackson. “The city chose to enter the bond market now so that savings could be achieved while interest rates are still near generational lows.”
The 2003 bond issue raised $9.43 million for two primary projects.
Most of the borrowed money, about $7 million, was used to pay for construction of the CenterPlace regional meeting center and is being repaid by the Spokane Public Facilities District. About $5.65 million is still owing on that portion of the bond issue and the refinancing will save $1.38 million.
About $2.43 million of the original bond issue was dedicated to street and transportation improvements in the Valley and is being repaid by the city’s share of real estate excise tax revenue. About $1.39 million is still owing and the refinancing will save the city about $201,000.
The city said average interest rate for the refinanced bonds is 2.7 percent compared to 4.96 percent on the old debt. The refinancing occurred on Aug. 13. D.A. Davidson & Co. of Seattle acted as bond underwriter and Piper Jaffray, also of Seattle, acted as financial advisor for the refunding bonds.
Spokane Valley officials are concerned that some readers may have mistakenly inferred the city is sanctioning marijuana use at a new members-only social club because it issued business licenses to the establishment.
The Lounge, located in the former Ringo's casino at Sprague and Bowdish, is getting around state prohibitions on public marijuana use by operating as a private club. Owners acknowledged in a July 26 article that they're operating in a legal gray area but believe they've cobbled together a legally defensible business model.
City spokeswoman Carolbelle Branch says the only business licenses the Valley has issued to the Lounge are for its social club and its consulting service, which is how the company refers to its on-site medical marijuana dispensary. Branch said the licenses in no way reflect the city's sanctioning of marijuana use on the premises, noting that regulatory power rests with other agencies.
The establishment is blending Washington's newfound tolerance for recreational marijuana with the more loosely regulated medical marijuana and the built-in loopholes that private social clubs have long enjoyed in this state. The result is a mix of regulatory jurisdictions, many of which are still trying to sort out the state's largely untested laws and how to enforce them.
Either way, as noted in the original article, law enforcement has pledged to take a zero tolerance approach to impaired driving regardless of whether it's drugs or alcohol
Valley leaders unanimously adopted new restrictions on recreational marijuana retailers tonight despite warnings from pot entrepreneurs that it could doom the fledgling industry's success here.
The local restrictions go beyond the existing state prohibitions on marijuana operations within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and libraries. In the Valley, retail operations also are now prohibited within 1,000 feet of the Centennial Trial and planned Appleway Trail, as well as any land earmarked for future schools, parks or libraries. A late addition to the ordinance also prohibits retail operations near Spokane Valley City Hall or city-owed property that could be used for parks or city operations in the future.
Several people urged the council to reject the additional restrictions, with some prospective retailers warning that they may have to consider a lawsuit against the city if the additional restrictions prevent them from finding suitable locations to open their stores.
Crystal Orcutt called the restrictions hypocritical because no other industry faces the same types of restrictions. Orcutt noted that there's an adult products emporium across the street from city hall and several bars and cocktail lounges nearby, both of which she suggested pose greater threats to the health of the community.
“The zoning restrictions that are being suggested here tonight are too restrictive,” she said.
The proposal was approved unanimously without comment by council members.
Spokane Valley’s three public pools will open Saturday for the summer.
All cost $1 per person for open swim sessions, which are generally available seven days a week through August from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Be sure to check the schedule at each pool, though, since each has blackout dates for organized activities and offer varying times for morning and lunchtime lap swim sessions.
Park Road Pool, 906 N. Park Road, features a water slide called the Plunge. No evening sessions on Wednesdays. Closes for the season on Aug. 17.
Valley Mission Pool, 11123 E. Mission Ave., features water buckets and zero-depth entry pool. No evening sessions during weekdays from June 23 to July 31. Closes for the season on Aug. 23.
Terrace View Pool, 13525 E. 24th Ave., features a lazy river for watery floating relaxation. No evening sessions during weekdays from Aug. 4 to Aug. 28. Closes for the season on Sept. 1.
Swim passes are available for $20, which provide 25 entries to any of the Valley’s pools. Scholarship programs administered by Spokane Valley Partners also are available. Children under 5 are free with a paying adult.
After years of discussions and negotiations over regional garbage disposal, Spokane Valley is going its own way.
City Council members decided unanimously tonight to contract with Sunshine Disposal & Recycling to handle disposal of the Valley’s estimated 45,000 tons of garbage each year. The decision follows years of discussions with Spokane and county officials as the region’s existing solid waste system is set to expire this fall.
“We’re acting in the best longterm interests of our citizens,” said Mayor Dean Grafos.
Spokane County had struck a deal with Spokane, which has controlled the regional system for two decades, to take over the existing transfer stations and had hoped to create a countywide system it would control.
Commissioner Todd Mielke made a last-minute push tonight to persuade council members to postpone a final decision and give the county a chance to beat Sunshine’s rate. Mielke said the city of Spokane was trying to work out a reduced disposal rate at its energy-producing trash incinerators on the West Plains, which would enable the county to offer a tonnage rate nearly $4 lower and could amount to millions of dollars in savings over the next decade.
But Valley leaders rejected the delay request, with some noting that the Valley had openly sought a partnership role in a regional system but was repeatedly offered only an advisory role. They also noted that Sunshine stepped up with a guaranteed rate while the county provided only estimates and contingencies.
Additionally, Sunshine officials said it needs to get started immediately with planned expansion and improvements it is promising in order to be ready by mid-November when the new arrangement takes effect.
For residents, little will change. Waste Management still will handle curbside pick up, but instead of dumping the garbage at county transfer stations they’ll drop their loads at Sunshine’s facility on University Road north of Interstate 90. The garbage then will be loaded for long-haul to regional landfills in Central Washington.
Valley officials estimate the cost of solid waste disposal will be cheaper with Sunshine than under the county system. County officials contend the savings, if any, would be minimal.
Spokane Valley likely will be taking a pass on joining the county's regional solid waste system.
The city council unanimously decided tonight to advance a proposed contract with Sunshine Disposal & Recycling for final consideration next week, despite warnings from county officials who contend that comparisons suggesting Valley residents would save at least $250,000 a year are flawed. Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke said the difference between the Sunshine rate and the county's estimate is almost indistinguishable when all variables are taken into account, while Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn added that the county plan provides greater overall cost benefits and better customer service.
City officials stood by their comparisons, however, and council members said it would be irresponsible to move forward with a county plan that lacks any rate guarantees. Sunshine's offer included a guaranteed rate with future increases kept below inflation.
The proposed Sunshine contract will be brought to a final vote next Tuesday.
Several other cities across Spokane County were meeting tonight to consider private-sector options as well.
Look for a roundup later this week in The Spokesman-Review.
A proposed land-use change that would have allowed large apartment complexes in a mostly rural neighborhood along Barker Road was dumped tonight by the Spokane Valley City Council.
Council members voted 6-1 against moving the proposal forward for further consideration, saying the infrastructure is inadequate to accommodate apartments and that it would be detrimental to the existing neighborhood.
“This is not an apartment building neighborhood,” said Councilmember Ed Pace.
The proposal by Whipple Consulting Engineers would have reclassified a 5-acre parcel at Barker Road and the old Sprague Avenue from low- to high-density residential.
The neighborhood, however, banded together to fight it, packing several City Council meetings to protest the change.
“We feel pretty good,” said Danny Smith, who shares a home with his daughter and son-in-law on a 1-acre parcel adjacent to the proposed land-use change. “We knew it was close and had no idea how the vote would go.”
Spokane Valley Mall will be transformed into Spokane Valley City Hall for part of Thursday.
Mayor Dean Grafos will kick of the event at noon with his first state of the city address.
Other highlights include demonstrations of the Valley's new smartphone app, and the city's new online permitting system. Sheriff's Office volunteers will be distributing free bike helmets and the countywide animal control service, SCRAPS, will have a cat available for adoption along with information on other pets available. There's also kids activities organized by the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
The event will run until 5 p.m.
Spokane Valley eased restrictions tonight on where recreational marijuana can be grown and packaged.
The move is designed to open industrial sites north of the Spokane River along the city’s eastern edge that were excluded when Spokane Valley imposed a 1,000-foot buffer around the Centennial Trail. Retail marijuana stores are still prohibited within the buffers.
Commercial real estate agents, industrial property owners and would-be marijuana producers told council members the river is a better buffer than an arbitrary 1,000 feet, and that opening up the industrial sites even to limited production and processing will bring new companies and jobs to the city.
The council unanimously approved the change.
More than 30 companies have applied to the state for production and processing licenses in Spokane Valley, while 43 more have applied for retail licenses. The state will allow just three retail operations in the city, but there’s no geographical limit on the number of licensed producers and processors.
The Senior Empowerment Resource Fair is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 25 at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley.
“The goal of the event is to inform seniors and their families about the services and resources that are available in Spokane Valley and region wide,” said Spokane Valley Senior Specialist Karen Clark-Parson, who noted that the senior center is often the first contact point when looking for senior-focused housing, financial, and grief counseling services.
This year’s fair features 54 vendors and is free to attend. The event center is located at 2426 N. Discovery Place, just northwest of Indiana Avenue and Mirabeau Parkway.
The first recreational pot license has been issued in Spokane Valley.
Farmer J's LLC has been issued production and processing licenses for a site located in an industrial park north of Interstate 90 and east of Argonne Road. The company reportedly specializes in infused marijuana products.
Spokane Valley City Council members were advised tonight by legal staff that the licenses had been issued. The announcement came as council members were contemplating zoning restrictions designed to open up more industrial zones to production and processing but tighten down potential retail locations.
No retail licenses have been approved yet in Spokane Valley, which can have three under state rules.
Voters in Spokane Valley are being asked to increase their property taxes $14 per $100,000 of assessed valuation to pay for a $22 million library expansion. Ballots must be postmarked by April 22 or taken to official drop boxes located outside public libraries countywide and the measure requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass.
The plan calls for a new 30,000-square-foot branch at Sprague Avenue and Herald Road that would be part of an expanded Balfour Park and revitalization effort in the heart of Spokane Valley; a new 10,000-square-foot branch at Conklin Road serving Greenacres; and a remodel of the existing Argonne branch to expand the library into a portion of the building that currently houses the Spokane County Library District's administrative office. The Valley's existing main branch would be converted to an administrative and operations facility, though none of the proposed bond revenue would be used for that transition.
Just a month after banning marijuana operations within 1,000 feet of recreational trails, Spokane Valley appears to be reconsidering the move after commercial real estate brokers, landlords and pot entrepreneurs warned it's driving away potential new jobs.
Industrial property north of the Spokane River, where several potential pot processing operations are hoping to locate, was rendered off limits by the city's interim zoning restrictions adopted in February because the southern property line is barely within 1,000 feet of the Centennial Trail on the other side of the Spokane River. Landowners suggested the river is its own natural buffer zone between the trail and the potential marijuana operations.
City Council members agreed.
“I think we need to use some common sense,” said Councilman Bill Bates.
The required buffer around recreational trails in Spokane Valley is in addition to the state-mandated buffer zones around parks and schools.
Mayor Dean Grafos wants a proposed amendment drafted that would impose the local buffer restrictions on retail operations only, which effectively would clear the way for the industrial property north of the river.
The proposal likely will be considered next month.
But some council members don't want people getting the wrong idea.
“I still don't like marijuana (and) … wish we could just ban it,” said Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard. “But I think the intent of what we were trying to do was prevent families from being accosted by it, and I think the river becomes a pretty good barrier.”
Spokane Valley's clever smartphone app is getting a trade show rollout.
The app, which relies on GPS coordinates and Google Places to steer users to the services or activities they're looking for, will be among the featured tech innovations at the city's booth in Thursday's Spokane Valley Chamber Business Show, set for 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mirabeau Park Hotel and Convention Center, 1100 N. Sullivan Road.
Developed in-house, the app was launched last summer but city officials are still trying to get the word out that it's available for free download from both the iPhone App Store and Android Play Store. It's considered an economic development tool because it seeks to help tourists and residents alike realize the Valley generally has the services, activities and recreational opportunities they want.
Users are provided with easy-to-follow maps to whatever they're looking for in a format that has drawn widespread accolades from tourism and city officials across the Northwest.
But while the app puts an impressive, almost encyclopedic array of local information at your fingertips, there's one Spokane Valley question even 21st century technology can't answer: where's downtown?
Spokane Valley's summer recreation guide is available and registration opens Monday for camps and programs.
Copies of the guide can be picked up from the CenterPlace Regional Events Center, 2426 N. Discovery Place, or viewed online, where you'll also find information about scholarships, parent packets for summer camps and electronic registration options.
Additional information also is available by calling (509) 688-0300.
If you've been wondering what kinds of plans are in place for dealing with potential train derailments across the Inland Northwest, you might want to tune in to Tuesday night's Spokane Valley City Council meeting.
Spokane Valley Fire officials will be updating city leaders on exiting rail restrictions and what multi-community preparations already have been made for dealing with rail disasters. The issue is getting more attention these days because of plans to ship millions of gallons of Bakken crude oil to ports and refineries on the West Coast, which would increase the number of mile-long trains rolling through the Inland Northwest daily.
Federal regulators are contemplating new safeguards on oil trains following a string of fiery accidents in other states in the past year. Also, new reports indicate Bakken crude is more flammable than other oil.
The City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday. You can either head to Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave., to watch in person or steer your favorite web browser to www.spokanevalley.org/content/124/938/329/2138.aspx and watch the presentation live on SCTV.