June 18, 2009 in Washington Voices

Council OKs plan

Sprague- Appleway project approved in 5-2 vote
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Inside

Resignation: Councilman Steve Taylor will quit to become city manager in Connell, Wash. Page 8

Years in the making, Spokane Valley’s Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan was approved Tuesday by a divided City Council.

The vote was 5-2, with council members Gary Schimmels and Rose Dempsey dissenting.

While City Councilman Steve Taylor called the plan “truly fabulous” and Mayor Rich Munson proclaimed himself “very, very proud” of the plan, Dempsey said she hadn’t liked it “from the beginning” and Schimmels thought it “very presumptuous” to extend the plan east of University Road.

Schimmels noted the plan assumes Appleway Boulevard will be extended east from University Road, but the city hasn’t acquired the right of way from Spokane County.

Munson said he shared Schimmels’ concern about adopting zoning regulations based on an access road the city may not be able to build. He said he would move to “revisit” the issue if the city hasn’t obtained the right of way by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the council unanimously adopted City Attorney Mike Connelly’s proposal to ask county commissioners and directors of the Spokane Transit Authority to appoint representatives and join the city in mediated discussions of a long-running dispute over the right of way.

Connelly said he thinks all three organizations share a goal of extending the boulevard and preserving a rapid-transit corridor for future use, but discussions so far have been “circular” and “rather unproductive.” The dispute is over who will pay for additional land that’s needed in places where the county-owned right of way – an abandoned railroad line – is too narrow.

Councilman Bill Gothmann didn’t see the city’s failure to acquire the right of way as an impediment to the new zoning regulations.

The city also doesn’t own his property, “and yet the city’s zoned it,” Gothmann said.

Dempsey credited the council with changing the plan to make it “more palatable” to critics.

“They’ve almost brought me to the point where I could vote for it, but not quite,” she said.

With Taylor dissenting, the council granted one more concession Tuesday and removed property owned by Dean Grafos from the revitalization area.

A leading critic of the plan, Grafos is the landlord for BJ Auto Sales, 15813 E. Sprague Ave., which would have become a grandfathered, nonconforming use under the revitalization plan. The council also carved out an adjacent house, used for a music business.

Both Sprague Avenue properties are south of the Fred Meyer store near the corner of Sprague and Sullivan, which is at the revitalization area’s eastern boundary.

A representative of Auto Row dealerships pleaded unsuccessfully for additional concessions, including relief from sign regulations.

The plan won’t take effect until Oct. 1 to give city staff members have time to gear up and to allow developers with pending projects to complete their applications under existing rules.

In other business, the council heard a report that all three bids to build the new Discovery Playground in Mirabeau Point Park exceeded the city’s cost estimate of slightly more than $1 million, including five optional elements.

Parks Director Mike Stone said one reason is that the estimate, prepared by a Colorado consultant, failed to allow for Washington’s requirement for the city to pay “prevailing” wages – which typically are based on union contracts.

The council signaled its intention to proceed with the project even though the apparent low bid, by Ginno Construction, was more than $1.5 million. Stone said city officials would try to find money to cover the overage by the time the bids are presented to the council for action on June 30.

City Manager Dave Mercier said one likely source is approximately $400,000 left over from construction of the CenterPlace Regional Event Center.

The three-fourths-acre playground will be in front of CenterPlace. It will have numerous features designed to be accessible and appealing to people of all ages, with and without handicaps.

With a theme of “Exploring Eastern Washington,” the playground is to stimulate the senses with attractions such as a “wavy sidewalk,” fragrant gardens, tunnels and splashing water.


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