While Spokane Valley council candidates David Crosby and Rose Dempsey agree on several key issues, they offer voters diverging views on neighborhoods, impact fees and plans to develop a mixed-use city center.
With few exceptions, their tone was cordial and their answers brief Thursday night as they faced questions from journalists with The Spokesman-Review, the Pacific Northwest Inlander and the Spokane Valley News Herald during a debate at the CenterPlace community center.
Speaking first, Dempsey summarized her personal history and was quick to state her commitment to the neighborhood concerns that have driven much of the race for the seat of departing Councilman Mike DeVleming.
“Our valley is unique. The culture is unique, and this culture deserves to be preserved for our children and our children’s children,” she said.
A lifelong Valley resident, Crosby said in his opening statement that he’s watched the area evolve from a bedroom suburb of Spokane to its own city with an identity he wants to help form through the development of a city center, diverse housing and a revitalized Sprague Avenue.
“We need to grow as a city. There’s a lot of changes that come with that,” he said.
How growth happens has been the hottest debate at City Hall recently as the council finalized new zoning that many homeowners testified would bring unacceptably dense development into their neighborhoods.
While Dempsey said there is a place for apartments and townhouses in Spokane Valley, she said the city should protect existing neighborhoods from denser development.
“We need to not encroach on individual neighborhoods,” she said.
Citing the Ponderosa and Rotchford areas that were laid out in 1-acre tracts, Crosby said “protecting the character of established neighborhoods is important when there’s character to be protected.”
But, he said, the city has to balance neighborhood character with state laws that require a city to fully use its available land before expanding outward. Doing so, he indicated, will mean transitioning many parts of the city that are suburban or even rural in nature to places that are more urban.
On the question of impact fees for schools, the candidates were divided along the same lines.
Dempsey, a church music director, said a per-house fee on new construction would help offset the cost of a classroom space shortage reported by Central Valley School District.
Crosby, a Realtor, described them as a “feel good opportunity” that would only raise a fraction of what it costs to build a new school while making housing less affordable.
On other issues, though, their opinions aligned. Neither is interested in forming a Spokane Valley police force in the near future or ending the city’s current contract with the sheriff’s office.
Dempsey has changed her position on the Sprague-Appleway couplet from earlier in the race, and both candidates now want it turned into two two-way streets.
On the limited revenues trickling into the city budget, both candidates emphasized bringing more business to the city rather than suggesting specific types of new taxes, although Dempsey acknowledged that tax options available to cities aren’t something she knows much about.
While both support the construction of a City Hall and some sort of center for the Valley, they differ in the scale of the project they’d like to see built.
The City Council is negotiating to develop the old U-City Mall into a mixed-use center, possibly on leased land, where stores, offices and high-density housing would be intermingled with publicly funded infrastructure and civic buildings.
Responding to a question from the audience, Dempsey indicated she would support a smaller project on land across Sprague that the Pring family has offered to sell.
“We wouldn’t be leasing anything from anybody,” she said.
Crosby took issue with one of her earlier statements that residents don’t feel like they are part of the government, and that she was surprised by the magnitude of the city center plans.
“There’s been a ton of information out there,” Crosby said, including a Web site and public meetings held by the City Council and Planning Commission, which he serves on.
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