December 17, 2009 in Washington Voices

Planning positions filled

Three incumbents reappointed, Woodard added to commission
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Outgoing Spokane Valley Mayor Rich Munson reappointed three Planning Commission members and named a new one Tuesday.

Munson said state law required the appointments to be made before the end of the year.

Otherwise, Munson said in an interview, he will leave all other appointments until January, when he will be replaced on the council.

Three new members – Bob McCaslin, Brenda Grassel and Tom Towey – will be sworn in during a special session at 6 p.m. next Wednesday. They will take their seats at the Jan. 5 council meeting.

The current council – including newly elected Dean Grafos, who was seated Dec. 1 – unanimously confirmed Munson’s reappointment of Planning Commission Chairman John Carroll and members Marcia Sands and Rustin Hall to three-year terms.

The vote was 6-1 against Diana Wilhite to appoint real estate broker Arne Woodard to the two years remaining in the term Towey vacated because of his election to the City Council.

Other applicants included Lynn Plaggemeir, a former engineering director for the U.S. Air Force Academy; J. Grant Person, vice president for sales and development at NAI Black Commercial Real Estate; Brian Gingras, manager of the Post Falls ProBuild store.

Also: Gordon Curry, a self-employed real estate broker; Shane Comer, housing developer for Community Frameworks; Robert T. Blum, a retired GTECH Corp. marketing consultant; and Bill Bates, a retired Rosauers vice president for retail operations.

The council also unanimously called for the city planning staff and the Planning Commission to recommend ways to notify more property owners about land-use decisions that may affect them.

Council members want to amend the municipal development code to require mailing notices to property owners affected by “legislative” land actions with broad application.

Community Development Director Kathy McClung said examples include changes in the comprehensive plan map, policy and municipal code changes, and area-wide zone changes.

Individual notification already is required for “quasi-judicial” actions that apply to specific properties. Typically, those are neighborhood zone changes and subdivision plans that are decided by the city hearing examiner.

In those cases, state law requires notices to be mailed to surrounding properties within 400 feet.

The challenge in expanding notification to area-wide actions is to keep it affordable.

McClung said most cities limit legislative notifications to the state requirement to publish notices in a newspaper, but Spokane Valley is free to do more.

However, Assistant City Attorney Cary Driskell said the notification section of the city development code must be amended first.

The issue came to a head in September when the council called for the city to notify more than 400 property owners throughout the city that the “community facilities” zones were being replaced by the categories surrounding them.

A resident complained that his church had been rezoned without notification.

In that case, McClung said, mailing notices to all 400 or so property owners would have cost slightly more than $1,000, not counting staff time.

Councilman Bill Gothmann suggested sending notices whenever a proposal would affect 1,000 or fewer property owners.

“This has been a perennial problem in this city and this is the way to solve it,” Gothmann said.

Councilwoman Rose Dempsey agreed that better notification “tends to make people a little less anxious about what’s going to happen.”

“They don’t have to worry about what the city is going to do behind their back, you might say,” she said.

“We’ve been criticized greatly for that,” Councilman Gary Schimmels said, calling better notification “a cost of doing business.”

In other business, the council unanimously approved code changes raising the threshold for getting a permit to use city parks and banning unlicensed gun possession in public stadiums or convention centers.

Exhibitions in convention centers are exempt.

Currently in Spokane Valley, the gun ban applies to the county-owned Spokane Indians baseball stadium and the CenterPlace Regional Event Center. Guns are prohibited at school stadiums by state law.

The park-permit amendment eliminates what city officials say was a burdensome requirement for dances with five or more people or other gatherings of 15 or more people to obtain a permit.

The new threshold is 200 people at any kind of event. The city’s time limit for processing a permit was increased from five days to four weeks.

The council also unanimously approved $996,000 in cost increases on a $6.6 million, multi-agency project to relieve traffic congestion on Pines Road north of Interstate 90.

Despite unanticipated difficulties and costly delays, Public Works Director Neil Kersten said the city’s $1.32 million share of the cost will be 20 percent. That’s typical for city street projects, he said.

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