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Valley hears final zoning comments

The council chambers swelled with people intent on changing the course of development in Spokane Valley one last time Tuesday as the City Council held its final public hearing on the city’s new development code.

“We’ve played this dance with you for years now, and it’s becoming very exhausting,” said Greenacres resident Alice Beattie.

Three years ago residents in her neighborhood raised $1,800 and got approval to rezone their neighborhood for roughly quarter-acre minimum lots. The Planning Commission recently recommended that much of the neighborhood retain that zoning, but the council decided at its last meeting to apply the more spacious zoning to only a few areas south of 16th Avenue.

“The waffling has to stop,” Beattie said. “If we wanted to live in the high density we would have moved into the Spokane-proper area.”

About half of the 30 who testified specifically voiced their support for the larger lots, echoing earlier public testimony heard by the council as it decides how the city will grow in the decades to come.

“We have spoken. We have told you what we want,” said Erica Johnson. She said she tried to persuade other young homeowners to testify but that they felt the council had made up its mind and that their testimony wouldn’t matter.

“We just want to win our faith back in you,” she said.

While some made the case for preserving neighborhood character and limiting development’s impact to infrastructure and schools, five testified in favor of the smaller lots, citing housing prices and the relationship between density and the city’s ability to fund services.

“We are a city now that needs a tax base,” said Jane House.

She plans on developing her acreage in Greenacres and said that the city’s formation calls for city-sized lots.

Planning Commissioner and City Council candidate David Crosby also argued for the smaller lot sizes.

“The demographics of America are changing and changing substantially,” he said. In addition to affordability, Crosby said, many soon-to-be-retired baby boomers are looking for houses on smaller lots that require less maintenance.

His opponent in the council race had a different view.

“We have the opportunity here in Spokane Valley to have different kinds of housing in different areas,” Rose Dempsey said.

The city has room for different densities, she said, including the larger lots.

After the hearing, the council members’ discussion on the code was brief.

While some supported the proposed residential zoning, Councilmen Rich Munson and Bill Gothmann said they would bring up the Greenacres rezone issue at their meeting next week.