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Verner considers veto on South Hill big-box rules

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said this week she might veto City Council legislation for the first time.

Verner said she opposes a portion of the council’s June 30 decision that allows big-box retail development near Regal Street and the Palouse Highway.

City Administrator Ted Danek confirmed Wednesday that Verner was mulling a veto of the development changes.

“I have until Friday, and I’m going to take every minute,” Verner said Monday.

A Spokane mayor hasn’t cast a veto since former Mayor Jim West rejected a rule requiring the use of bike helmets in 2004. The council ultimately overrode that veto.

The council voted 6-1 to approve new development rules that allow for construction of a Home Depot, another big-box store up to 105,000 square feet in size, and a 135,000-square-foot store that developers say could become a Target.

The council only needs five votes to override a veto. Still, Verner has a shot at having her veto hold because her concerns about the legislation focus on an amendment sponsored by Councilman Al French that passed on a 4-3 vote.

Assistant City Attorney Michael Piccolo said Verner can veto the whole ordinance or a section of it.

French’s amendment increased the size allowed for other buildings on the properties from 40,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet.

Those opposed to the change said the amendment was inconsistent with what was negotiated in neighborhood meetings between residents and developers.

Councilman Steve Corker, who supported the amendment, said Wednesday that he would listen to Verner’s concerns but that he remains supportive of the amendment.

“That just gives a lot more options for businesses to succeed,” Corker said.

Councilman Mike Allen, who voted for the ordinance after voting against the amendment, said the best way to get quality development is to create a development agreement. With passage of the ordinance, city officials must approve a detailed agreement about plans for the sites before permits can be issued.

“But if the mayor wanted to revisit the 40,000-square-feet (amendment), I would certainly support her,” Allen said.

Verner has received a stream of e-mails from Southgate neighborhood residents asking her to reject the legislation. She has said she supports efforts to develop the site, even if she disagrees with French’s amendment.

“It doesn’t behoove the city’s best interest to just leave the properties there in a state of conflict,” Verner said in an interview June 27. “At least now property owners will be moving ahead, something can be constructed there – something that’s revenue generating for the city and complementary to what the neighborhood wants.”

Staff writer Jonathan Brunt can be reached at jonathanb@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5442.

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