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Council OKs new school zones, lower speed limits

But speed limit will increase on Mansfield west of Pines Road

Speed limits will be changing on several streets after a unanimous vote by the Spokane Valley City Council Tuesday.

Parents requested lower school zone limits near North Pines Middle School and South Pines Elementary. A new 20 mph zone will be put in place on Alki Avenue east of Pines Road next to the middle school. “A lot of the parents stop on both sides of the street to pick up their kids,” said senior traffic engineer Inga Note. “The buses go through there, too.”

The new school zone at South Pines Elementary will be north of the school along Pines at 19th Avenue where there is already a crosswalk. Children often cross the street there because there is no sidewalk and no shoulder on the east side of Pines. Longterm plans are to put in a crosswalk, but in the interim the city should put in a short school zone at the crosswalk to slow traffic, Note said.

Residents on Mansfield Avenue just west of Pines requested that the speed limit on the road between the new roundabout and Pines be increased from 25 mph. “We widened that road,” Note said. The recently redone stretch now includes wide lanes and a center turn lane. The speed limit will be increased to 35 mph to make it consistent. “It is 35 west of the roundabout,” she said.

The council also heard a report on possible alternate locations for the city’s street maintenance facility. When Spokane County canceled its snowplowing contract with the city a couple of years ago, the city quickly leased a former Waste Management facility located across the street from City Hall behind the Post Office on First Avenue. Earlier this year, public works director Neil Kersten suggested purchasing the property, but several council members said they wanted to explore other properties as well.

Realtors sent Kersten a stack of possibilities. “Most of those properties are either really old or don’t fit our requirements,” he said. Some were simply large warehouses. Others had thousands more square feet of office space than the city needs. Several were not even inside the city limits. The street maintenance facility only needs a small amount of office space, a shop with space for three trucks and open space to park equipment and store sand and de-icer.

The only property that came close to fitting the city’s needs is at 17711 E. Euclid Ave. It is perfectly sized and nearly new, but the location gives him pause, Kersten said. “It’s clear to the northeast side of the city,” he said. “It’s not very centrally located.” It would take a lot of time and cost extra money for labor and gas to send snowplows to the west side of the city from that location. “That’s my biggest concern.”

The site also does not have sewer and the County currently has no plans to extend sewer to that area. It also costs nearly half a million dollars more than the old Waste Management site, which is for sale for $578,850.

“I think on the surface of it, the First Avenue property is ideal,” said Councilman Bill Gothmann.

Mayor Tom Towey agreed that the Euclid property is too far afield. “Why would we pursue the one out there?” he said, indicating that he prefers the First Avenue property. “I feel pretty comfortable with it.”

Councilman Dean Grafos suggested trying to buy the former Olympic Boat Center located at 12802 E. Indiana Ave., which is slightly larger. “I would rather look at a piece of property where we have more land,” he said. The property is listed for $1.4 million. “I would assume in this market you could get it for a lot less.”

Kersten said he looked at the site. “It just didn’t fit our needs,” he said. “Really where I’m coming from is we don’t have a lot of money.” The city also has the option of negotiating with the Central Valley School District for a small piece of property next to the former Waste Management site if they want it for future expansion, he said.

The council agreed to have Kersten explore purchasing the First Avenue property and come back to the council early next year for final approval.

In other business, the council unanimously approved code text amendments to make several changes to the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan. The changes would allow additions or remodeling worth up to 80 percent of the value of a building and the land it sits on before business owners would have to meet new zoning requirements. The new amendments will also clarify setback requirements that conflict with existing easements, change pre-located future streets to potential streets and allow existing single family homes in the Mixed Use Avenue zone to be classified as conforming uses.

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