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Developers complain about land restrictions

New concerns surfaced and old ones were repeated by Spokane Valley residents at the latest hearing on the city’s contentious new development code.

A few in the crowd of about 60 reiterated earlier testimony on the minimum size for residential lots being debated by the council. Homeowners in some areas again said higher densities would fundamentally change their neighborhoods, while residents near Felts Field expressed frustration Tuesday that rules passed last year restrict their ability to develop their land.

“There was never any notification,” Greg Bowman said after the meeting.

Through a legal ad in the Valley News Herald, the city announced that new rules were being considered for land around the airport. One of them restricted residential building in some areas to one house for every 2 1/2 acres.

Bowman said he had purchased land to subdivide and worked with the city’s planning department to do so, only to have planners tell him later that he couldn’t proceed under the new rules.

Many in the neighborhood paid to have extra water and sewer lines installed with the intention of dividing up their land, he said.

Orchard Avenue Irrigation District was not made aware of the changes, Bowman said. It had counted on revenue from the new connections in its long-term plans, which he said will have to be rewritten and will likely cost water customers more.

Other issues brought to the council included concerns about preserving wildlife in the city and development’s impact on schools.

“No parent wants their elementary-age child bused out of the neighborhood,” said Nancy Purcell.

The audience applauded after she said it is the council’s responsibility to ensure services keep up with growth and to preserve the character of neighborhoods.

Another commenter testified in support of 1-acre zoning for parts of the city after saying he was dismayed by the process used to adopt the code.

“I find it very hard to follow,” said Ron Hormann, a former Spokane County engineer who once ran for county commissioner saying he’d make “dealing with growth” a top priority. “As I stand here tonight I’m not certain what I’m giving my comments on.”

All of the city’s development regulations were rewritten and packaged together by the city’s staff. The Planning Commission reviewed the code, made changes and forwarded its version of each chapter on to the City Council. That body is going through the document title by title. Changes made by the council so far technically have been done “by consensus,” although sometimes council members vote on whether or not to change something.

The council can revisit any topic it’s already gone over, though, because the entire code will be adopted in one piece next month.

Councilman Mike DeVleming asked that sections of the code the council has deliberated be posted to the city Web site for the public to view.

Others on the council encouraged people to comment, noting that they have been meeting twice a week recently to deliberate the code and that they take the feedback under consideration.


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