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City Council to hear big-box plan

Sat., June 28, 2008

Developers and neighbors may be closer to an 11th-hour compromise on design concepts for three contentious major commercial developments proposed for about 45 acres in southeast Spokane.

Reaching consensus could influence a City Council vote expected Monday night on three changes to the city’s comprehensive plan that would help clear the way for the projects at South Regal Street and the Palouse Highway, including a proposed Home Depot and possibly other big-box retail stores.

“I think we’re on the verge of a compromise; we’re guardedly optimistic,” said Teresa Kafentzis, president of the Southgate Neighborhood Council. “Because we really support development up there, we just think it needs to be appropriate to the neighborhood.”

But the issue is a touchy one politically; even with a handful of neighbors at the negotiation table, many residents may be opposed to any big-box stores in their neighborhood.

At a meeting Thursday, representatives of both sides hashed out a handful of additional principles – such as protecting views in the area and tying together designs on the three properties – that could be added to five prior points, including keeping native vegetation and dealing with surface water. Stakeholders envision the council using those principles as conditions if it approves the amendments.

“I think we’re inches from … making a deal or coming to consensus,” said Gary Bernardo, an architect employed by the Home Depot applicant.

Councilman Mike Allen, who represents the South Side, said he expects the parties to work though the weekend.

“I think as a council we look very favorably upon the progress that’s been made so far,” Allen said. “And I’m sure if they are not able to reach an agreement,” the council will find a resolution that works for both parties and the city.

“I guess we’ll find out at the council meeting,” said Bill Grimes, a planning consultant retained by the city. “We’re just going to see if we can actually employ all 12 of them in a design proposal to address primary concerns from both parties.”

Developers wanted to cap stores at 105,000 square feet, excluding outdoor areas and a possible 135,000-square-foot Target on one parcel, while neighbors proposed an 85,000-square-foot footprint limit. Now, developers might be able to build those larger stores by adding amenities or design features, a “fairly common model for a lot of codes,” Bernardo said.

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