Property owners on Sprague Avenue west of Argonne came to City Hall on Thursday morning to vent about issues they have with the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan.
The Spokane Valley City Council wants to reconsider SARP, and Thursday’s meeting was the first in a series of public meetings to discuss each zone in the plan. The areas discussed Thursday were the Gateway Commercial Center and Gateway Commercial Avenue zones in the Auto Row section of Sprague.
Several questions dealt with nonconforming businesses. One man said he owns a specialty retail store that is not allowed under the current zoning but is grandfathered in. “If we were to sell our business to a different owner, can we do that?” he said.
Associate planner Lori Barlow said he could. “That right to operate runs with the land,” she said.
Several people were concerned about the stipulation that a nonconforming building can not be rebuilt if it is damaged more than 80 percent in a fire or other disaster. Any new buildings constructed would have to meet the new requirements. Barlow pointed out that all the regulations dealing with nonconforming uses and “grandfathering” are in the city’s municipal code, not in SARP. The council has the power to change the municipal code whenever it wants.
Barry Curry, owner of Thrifty Car Rentals, said SARP caught him by surprise. “I was kind of unaware that this happened until a few months ago,” he said. “I was never informed as a property owner how this was going to affect me.” He said the change in zoning eliminated 48 possible uses for his land.
“This was the culmination of several years of planning and over 80 public meetings and notices to property owners,” Barlow said.
Curry said he did get notices, but didn’t realize his property was being downgraded and how much he would be affected. He also said he didn’t like the architectural requirements and the sign limitations. “Apparently you don’t want businesses to be able to advertise themselves,” he said.
He also objected to the requirements that new buildings must be placed between zero and 10 feet of the property line. “For example, a zero setback, how am I going to display cars?” he said.
Barlow said the plan does allow for a row of cars to be on display between a building and the sidewalk.
“I think this is very restrictive,” Curry said. “I really don’t believe you should restrict any type of use on any of these properties.”
The sign issue was also a concern for Bob Ellis, owner of Empire Cycle and Power Sports. “Our different brands require their own individual monument signs,” he said. “With all the bloody trees out there, no one can see our signs.”
Sean Lumsden of Quinn Group Advertising represents the car dealerships on Auto Row. He said the businesses he represents would also like to suggest changes on setbacks and building orientation, but he defended the city staff’s role in SARP. “I feel sorry for the gentleman who said he didn’t hear about this,” he said. “(Administrative Assistant) Deanna (Griffith) and the staff were sending out 300 to 400 e-mails at a time. We participated in the process.”
He also said that being able to have an unlimited number of signs was not a good thing and pointed to Federal Way, Wash., as an example. “Having the ability to put up as many signs as you want limits the visibility of each sign,” he said.
City staff kept a running list of the concerns and criticisms aired Thursday and encouraged the large crowd to submit any other concerns they had by May 27. The comments will be complied in a report that is scheduled to be presented to the City Council on June 8. The council will then discuss what changes should be made and the best way to make them.