Granny Flats May Be Forced On City Advocacy Group For Disabled Wants State Growth Mandates Enforced
(For the record Friday, February 17, 1995): Jim Bamberger is a member of the Spokane City Plan Commission. A story on accessory dwelling units published in Thursday’s Spokesman-Review reported his commission position incorrectly.
When the Spokane City Council refused to approve an ordinance allowing granny flats, it promised to defend singlefamily neighborhoods against state growth mandates.
Now an advocacy group for the disabled is asking the state to go forward and impose those mandates.
The Coalition of Responsible Disabled has asked that Spokane be found in violation of state growth laws for not enacting a policy on accessory housing units. The deadline for action was Dec. 31.
Wiley Marks, coalition director, said his group seeks to increase the supply of affordable housing. Allowing accessory units, known as granny flats, would do that.
“I was taken aback when I found out they decided not to do anything,” Marks said.
Councilman Chris Anderson, who opposed the ordinance, argues the council wasn’t required to pass a specific law, only look at it as part of an affordable housing plan.
“The citizens of Spokane said no to accessory housing units. We owe them an obligation to look at other options,” Anderson said.
Mayor Jack Geraghty added that the timeline for the law should be different for Spokane because the community was forced into growth management two years after Western Washington cities.
“It was the feeling of the council that the time to address this issue was when we looked at development policies and comprehensive plan updates,” he said. Those reviews will occur over the next three years.
Amy Tousley, a growth planner with the state, said there is no flexibility. If a threemember growth board finds there is a violation, it likely would set a deadline for the council to pass an ordinance. A hearing is set March 28.
If the council refuses, growth-planning money - $230,000 a year - as well as state dollars for transportation projects, could be withheld.
The proposed law would have allowed the units in all neighborhoods, with some restrictions.
In addition to Anderson and Geraghty, Orville Barnes and Joel Crosby oppose the ordinance - at least for now.
The Coalition of Responsible Disabled is a non-profit organization funded by the state Department of Education. It has 40 clients in Spokane and helps disabled people with independent living.
The coalition’s petition was filed by The Spokane Legal Services Center, whose director is Jim Bamberger. He also is vice chairman of the Spokane Plan Commission, which is appointed by the City Council.
“Somehow the City Council needs to be made aware it doesn’t have a right to snub its nose at mandatory provisions of the law,” Bamberger said Wednesday.
Bamberger said his staff will file action in Superior Court and believes that without a city ordinance, the state guidelines for accessory housing are law in Spokane. Anyone seeking a permit should be allowed to build, he contends.
But Anderson wonders if Bamberger isn’t having a fit of sour grapes and questions his participation in the issue.
“I do have a problem with the apparent conflict of Mr. Bamberger representing this group,” Anderson said.
“Is he angered that the council did not enlist his recommendations and then went out and solicited a client? It would not surprise me.”