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Washington Voices

Grafos’ vision clouded by interests

Sat., May 1, 2010

Councilman Dean Grafos’ vision sounds more like carping than it does a plan for the future. The vision does not include any plans, directions, goals or objectives for Spokane Valley.

His vision does not include a “West Side city manager,” does that mean the City Council in their search for a new city manager won’t consider anyone from the West Side? Sounds prejudicial.

In regard to business-friendly signage, in 2004-’05 and again in 2006, business leaders, citizen volunteers, city staff and professionals from the sign industry worked hundreds of hours to put together our current sign code. Perhaps some on the council believe this to be another instance when the “real community” was not involved.

This new vision does not acknowledge the importance of helping the businesses along Sprague between University and Fancher. It completely ignores the real problem, the one-way streets, and throws out a token of crosswalks and additional parking.

The one-way couplet formed by Sprague/Appleway is what’s killing the businesses. The couplet was formed in 2001 by the Spokane County commissioners. The SARP would eliminate the couplet and convert Sprague and Appleway back into two-way streets. Over the past few years, dozens of cities, including Vancouver, Wash., have converted one-way streets back to two-way.

Officials said the one-way streets solved transportation problems, but led to larger issues: business dead zones, loss of community identity, and increased dependence on cars. In 2008, Vancouver converted Main, the heart of its commercial zone, from a one-way to a two-way street. In 2009, Alan Ehrenhalt in his article “The Return of the Two-Way Street” published in “Governing” said “… in the midst of a severe recession, Main Street in Vancouver seemed to come back to life overnight.” Regarding the crosswalks, consider this, Airway Heights needed to help pedestrians cross Highway 2 where it passes through their city for 1.2 miles. In 2005 three crosswalks with signals and safety islands were installed for a cost of $73,000. Since their installation two pedestrians have been hit, one fatally. Sprague between University and Fancher is 2.8 miles long, so estimate six lights for $146,000; this is not even considering Appleway which could double the cost. Besides the cost, who is going to use the crosswalks and why? The non-auto related businesses are dying or, if they can, moving.

It appears that some of the council members’ only interest in zoning is to ensure permissive zoning conditions for themselves and their cohorts. Viable zoning regulations result in stronger business centers and operational economies. Stronger business centers result when investors and business operators can be assured that their investment won’t be tarnished by their neighbor.

What business wants to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to open a high-end retail operation then have someone next door paint their building neon pink and start a business providing relaxation therapy? Experience has shown that when neighboring businesses are compatible their combined draw is greater than the sum of their individual draws.

Where was the public participation in the creation of this vision, where were the public hearings, public testimony, community meetings or any other public input?

The city has some real issues and real problems, the council needs to focus on them instead of letting one member bully them into focusing staff time and effort on special interests.

Spokane Valley resident John Carroll can be reached by e-mail at john@ servicemasterofthevalley .com

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