January 8, 2009 in Washington Voices

Appleway Toyota may get relief

Council consensus would cut frontage requirement
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Appleway Toyota may get some relief from a planning proposal it says would prevent the dealership from facing Appleway Boulevard as well as Sprague Avenue.

An informal Spokane Valley City Council consensus Tuesday calls for reducing the frontage width for buildings in the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan’s Gateway Commercial Avenue zone – better known as Auto Row.

The plan called for new or substantially renovated buildings in the zone to be at least 40 percent as wide as the frontage width of their lots.

Frank Ide, a Taylor Engineering land planner representing Appleway Toyota, said in a July 29 letter that the 40 percent rule would ruin the company’s renovation plans.

Lowering the standard to 25 percent would solve the problem, Ide suggested.

With council members Steve Taylor and Gary Schimmels dissenting, the council settled on 30 percent.

Mayor Rich Munson said he could see no harm in dropping the standard to 30 percent, although Taylor worried the plan would fail to produce the desired aesthetic changes.

No Appleway spokesman was immediately available Tuesday night for comment on whether the change would allow the company to proceed with its renovation plan.

Ide said in his letter that the renovation is needed to satisfy standards of the dealership’s corporate parent, AutoNation. He noted the City Council approved vacation of First Avenue, which bisects the Appleway Toyota property, to accommodate the renovation.

The property at 8600 E. Sprague Ave. has about 350 feet of frontage on Sprague and more than 750 feet on Appleway, according to Ide. The lot depth, from Sprague to Appleway varies between 450 and 550 feet.

Ide said the 40 percent rule would require the renovated building to be 140 feet wide where it fronts on Sprague, but a 25 percent standard would reduce the width to 88 feet.

The company wants a building that is oriented toward Appleway as well as Sprague, not necessarily one that abuts both streets.

Almost all of Tuesday’s three-hour meeting was devoted to the council’s ongoing review of the Sprague-Appleway plan.

In other aspects of the plan, council members wrestled with what City Attorney Mike Connelly said is “very vague” language about items that are “normally displayed outside” of stores. The language was borrowed from the current zoning code.

“I can see some problems with this stuff, depending on the shop we’re dealing with,” Munson said.

Councilman Dick Denenny pleaded for staff advice.

“I need help with that,” he said. “It’s the old thing: You know it when you see it.”

Councilwoman Diana Wilhite saw a distinction between displaying merchandise and storing materials that aren’t for sale.

Generally, council members were warm to bicycles, lawn tractors, snow blowers, boats and similar equipment, but cold to piles of cinder blocks and other building supplies.

Senior planner Scott Kuhta, the Sprague-Appleway plan manager, was asked to prepare changes based on the council discussion.

Similarly, the council called for a better definition of what could be considered “obnoxious” in light industrial areas.

Taylor objected to a prohibition on fast-food restaurant drive-up windows in Neighborhood Centers zones. Wilhite called it “discriminatory” because banks could offer drive-up service.

“What’s the difference between the fast-food and the bank?” Wilhite asked.

Kuhta agreed to address that issue as well.

Munson questioned whether the Neighborhood Centers zone places too much emphasis on pedestrians. In some cases, the zones are too far from residential areas to expect people to walk there instead of driving, he said.

“What will motivate a developer to build a neighborhood center when there is no real neighborhood there?” Munson asked.

He proposed allowing gasoline convenience stores in the new zone.

“People can’t walk anywhere right now,” Councilwoman Rose Dempsey said. “If we have these neighborhood centers where we expect people to walk and they can’t get there, it’s not going to accomplish anything.”

But Kuhta envisioned neighborhood shopping areas like Spokane’s Perry District, in which motorists park and walk from one shop to another.

With landscaped strips between streets and sidewalks, “we won’t have so much snow on our sidewalks,” Kuhta said.

Councilman Bill Gothmann hoped “a cadre of residents” would want to live near such centers. Better mass transit would help, he said.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Denenny said. “We’re really looking toward the future.”

Munson’s gasoline convenience store proposal failed to gain traction. The consensus – which Munson joined – was to leave the zone as proposed except for seeking consistency in rules about drive-up windows.

Another of the mayor’s ideas – a “green path” along the largely undeveloped south side of Appleway Boulevard instead of new housing – generated more enthusiasm but no actual support.

“I think this would be a very good addition to the plan,” Dempsey said.

A bicycle path or a walking trail would be nice, she said.

The problem, Gothmann pointed out, is that the city must buy the land or allow its owners to develop it in some fashion.

“I’m not hearing any desire to change that,” Kuhta said of the proposed residential zoning, and the council quickly moved on.

The council will resume its revitalization plan discussions in a special meeting Monday evening and again at its regular meeting Tuesday.

John Craig may be contacted at johnc@spokesman.com.


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