The city of Spokane hearing examiner issued a decision last week approving the parking lot St. Mark’s Lutheran Church has planned to build behind the church on Grand Boulevard.
The church submitted a new site plan on Sept. 29 which shows landscaping and arborvitae used to conceal the parking area from the surrounding single-family homes, and also shows the site being configured in such a way that cut-through traffic is discouraged.
The hearing examiner did specify that parking lot lighting must be shaded to prevent glare onto surrounding properties.
“We are very happy with the ruling,” said Pat Sowder, parish administrator at St. Mark’s. “The required shading of the lighting is not an issue for us; we’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”
When the parking lot is complete, the church will have a total of 101 parking spots.
Earlier this year, church neighbors organized a protest against the construction of the parking lot. That grass-roots group turned into Families of Manito, and co-president Ann Bergeman said neighbors are disappointed with the hearing examiner’s decision.
“We will be discussing with legal counsel whether it makes sense for us to appeal in Superior Court, which is the next step,” said Bergeman. “We were pretty disappointed with the ruling but I can’t say we were terribly surprised. When we ask around in other neighborhoods we hear that this is how the city operates.”
Bergeman said Families of Manito were discouraged from contacting planning staff directly, and she doesn’t feel like they were treated fairly.
“There were no mention in the hearing examiner’s decision of the 80-plus neighbors who wrote letters opposing the parking lot,” said Bergeman.
St. Mark’s tore down one single-family home and moved another to make room for the expansion of the current lot, which is located west of the church, south of and with access to 24th Avenue. Bergeman said Families of Manito will seek to change the neighborhood’s designation to a historic area, which would make it more difficult to tear down homes.
The church has maintained that it needed more parking spaces to stop parishioners from using 24th Avenue as an overflow parking area. Expanding the parking lot toward the south will also allow access to 25th Avenue which is an arterial cleared during snowstorms.
“We impacted our neighbors on 24th and farther north with our street parking, much more than we will impact anyone with the new parking lot,” said Sowder.
Construction will not begin until winter is over.
“That is the only thing we are a little disappointed about,” said Sowder. “We’d hoped to be done by now.”