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Washington Voices

Zoning changes, safety project get bad public reviews

Property owners upset over effects on businesses

Several people used the public comment period at Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting to complain about zoning problems and the proposed Broadway Avenue Safety Project, which generated questions and discussion by council members.

Two property owners complained that the city’s current zoning under the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan does not allow them to do what they want with their property. Ed Conley owns the Elephant Boys store on East Sprague. After complaints were filed by two people with the city, he was told that boat sales were not allowed on his property. He appealed the decision and the hearing examiner sided with the city. The property owner, Harlan Douglass, has filed a lawsuit in Spokane County Superior Court to get the hearing examiner’s decision overturned.

Councilman Dean Grafos said the issue is an example of harm being done. “When we make those line changes on a map, it affects real people,” he said.

For Ratree Shadduck, zoning changes mean she can no longer put in a coffee shop at 16 N. Bowdish. The shop would have been allowed when the bought the parcel in 2006.

Councilman Bob McCaslin asked if there was anything in state or federal law to protect people who are originally told something is allowed and then later told that it isn’t. City Attorney Mike Connelly said that if Shadduck had applied for a permit when she bought the property, that would have locked in the old zoning and she could still open her shop. Since she did not get the permit there is nothing that can be done.

McCaslin said he wanted the council to move faster in making changes to SARP zoning. “People are being hurt economically,” he said.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said hearing the stories made her angry. “These folks are sitting here with an urgent need,” she said. “It definitely needs to be changed.”

At the end of the meeting Grassel asked Connelly several times if the city could make use of state law that allows for quick temporary zone changes with public hearings to be held within 60 days after the ordinance is enacted. Connelly said repeatedly that doing any zone changes that conflict with the city’s comprehensive plan would be illegal. The comprehensive plan can only be changed once a year and must begin in the city’s Planning Commission. Even a temporary zoning change that does not match the comprehensive plan would be illegal, Connelly said.

McCaslin picked up the argument, pointing to a printout of the state law and asking why the city couldn’t use it. “Doesn’t this give us that right?” he said.

Connelly said the city had the right to use the law in certain situations, but changing the SARP zoning was not one of them.

Most of Tuesday’s public comment revolved around the Broadway Avenue Safety Project, but the council did not discuss it directly even though their information packets for the evening included documents from city engineers Inga Note and Steve Worley giving information about the project.

The project would change Broadway from Pines to Park from a four-lane road to a three-lane road with two travel lanes, a center turn lane and two bike lanes. It would match the section of Broadway from Pines to Sullivan. The project is expected to start in June with a cost of $932,850. A Washington state Transportation Improvement Board grant would pay $746,280 of the total price tag. The project was approved in June 2009. Construction is expected to begin in June.

The goal of the project is to reduce rear-end collisions caused by vehicles making a left turn and increase pedestrian safety. According to the staff report, left turn collisions at the Broadway and McDonald intersection dropped from 16 with the four-lane configuration to two when the three lane configuration was put in. Accidents on the section from Pines to Sullivan caused by drivers pulling out of their driveways have also dropped significantly.

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