Council ponders couplet


Corridor proposals dominate discussion

It is too late to get anything on the November ballot, but the Spokane Valley City Council still spent a considerable amount of time discussing the one-way versus two-way issue on the Sprague/Appleway couplet at Tuesday’s council meeting. Several council members had differing opinions about when the public should be asked to weigh in or if there should be a vote at all.

The Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan calls for converting Sprague Avenue and Appleway back to two-way streets between University and Argonne roads as well as the extension of Appleway to Greenacres Road. Councilman Dean Grafos made the initial request to add the issue to the November ballot. “This has been going on since 2004,” he said. “That’s why I say let’s settle this once and for all.”

City engineer Steve Worley said a bare-bones cost of $1.34 million would pay to restripe the streets and add traffic signals. It would not include street improvements called for the in SARP plan. It would also not include needed traffic modeling or revisions to existing concrete driveway approaches to make them complaint with new Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Worley said staff is also recommending that the streets be resurfaced because they are deteriorating faster than anticipated. Doing work similar to what was done on East Sprague last year would add an additional $1.4 million to the price tag, he said.

If the council wanted to change the couplet to two-way streets as far west as Thierman Road, a consultant would have to be hired to do the work because current staff is busy with road construction projects. “We don’t have the time to be able to do it,” he said. The consultant would cost an estimated $150,000 and that work would determine how much the conversion of that section would cost.

The council previously asked about $4.2 million the city had been promised by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council to extend Appleway and whether that could be used to convert the couplet back to two-way. Worley said the money could be used on any project in the SARP corridor provided the city completes a $300,000 environmental review of extending Appleway to Tschirley Road first. “That’s the requirement that the federal government has,” he said.

The complications are that the environmental study would take a year to complete and then the city would have to wait for SRTC to receive federal funding, which could take years. But the funding could also be used to acquire right of way the city would need to extend Appleway. The land is currently owned by Spokane County, which wants the city to pay for it.

Mayor Tom Towey questioned how the city could proceed if it doesn’t receive the grant money from SRTC. “Where would we get the money for the conversion?” he said.

“There isn’t a grant opportunity that I’m aware of right now to fund that conversion,” Worley said. However, new grant opportunities are always coming up, he said.

Towey said it looked like the city could try for a grant or ask the people to fund the project through a bond. Councilman Bill Gothmann suggested a third option. “One of the options is waiting until funding is available,” he said.

Grafos advocated having a vote as soon as possible. “Let’s find the money very shortly after this vote to pay for the project,” he said.

Gothmann said that if funding the project is that urgent “the only source is a bond issue,” he said.

The business community has said the conversion is important, Towey said. “They really think it’s urgent that we proceed with this,” he said. Towey said he favored having a public vote if the city asks for a bond, but if the city can find other funding he doesn’t think a vote is necessary.

Councilwoman Rose Dempsey said the council should be making the decisions and that the council should reassure business owners that the conversion will take place. “They could all take a deep breath,” she said. “We have to take it on our shoulders.”

There is no reason to have a vote, Gothmann said. “This one-way/two-way has been decided,” he said. “It’s in our Comprehensive Plan.”

He also didn’t agree with the suggestion to have the public vote on a bond to fund the conversion. “This is not the time to go to people and ask to boost their property tax,” he said. “You know better than that.”

City Attorney Mike Connelly cautioned the council to wait to make financial decisions “based on a plan you may be changing.”

“I think it would be wise for us to wait until this fall” when the council finishes reviewing SARP, Towey said. “We need to settle the land use issue before we settle the street funding issue.”

Grafos said he was OK with waiting to look at the issue again in the fall. “I think we’re on the right track,” he said.

In other business, the council heard public comments from several people concerned with pingpong no longer being allowed at CenterPlace after a decision by the Senior Center board of directors. “Are you asking us to overturn the board’s decision?” Towey said.

“Not necessarily,” said pingpong player Verne Hutchinson. “I don’t know if you can do anything to the board.”

Towey pointed out that the City Council does not handle the day-to-day city operations. “The city manager runs the city,” he said.

The council also voted unanimously, with Councilwoman Brenda Grassel absent, to send several items relating to the Mixed Use Avenue zone in SARP to the Planning Commission for reconsideration. The proposed amendments would add some additional permitted uses in the zone, clarify setbacks where easements may make compliance impossible, increase the size of additions or expansion of existing buildings allowed before the new SARP requirements kick in and reconsider the pre-located street requirements.


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