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Ordinance allows vehicle sales in mixed-use avenue zone

The Elephant Boys business on East Sprague is now legal thanks to the passage of an ordinance Tuesday by the Spokane Valley City Council to allow vehicle sales in a mixed-use avenue zone.

The business owner had been given a cease and desist order by the city after complaints were received, and property owner Harlan Douglass had filed a lawsuit against the city in Spokane County Superior Court when the hearing examiner ruled in favor of the city.

The new ordinance, which was specifically to benefit Elephant Boys, requires such businesses to get a conditional-use permit. That requires them to have a public hearing before the hearing examiner, who can impose conditions to help mitigate the impact of the business on its neighbors or the public. The council also discussed several proposed text amendments that would affect the Gateway Commercial Avenue and Gateway Commercial Center zones on the west end of the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan area. The changes include sign rules, setback requirements and street frontage requirements. The Planning Commission has recommended approval of all the amendments except for one which would allow wall signs to be hung above the first floor.

“What specifically does that accomplish by prohibiting that?” said Councilman Bob McCaslin.

Associate planner Lori Barlow said the rule was created to make the signs visible to pedestrians. “So that’s for those folks walking in this area, both of them,” McCaslin said.

Grafos said he would like to overrule the Planning Commission’s recommendation and allow wall signs above the first floor.

“I would like to keep the Planning Commission recommendation,” said Councilwoman Rose Dempsey. She suggested that if a sign is allowed on the second floor it should be limited to the size it would be if it was on the first floor “so we wouldn’t have the possibility of huge screaming signs on the second and third floors.”

The proposed amendment would allow the signs to cover 25 percent of the wall space. “Twenty-five percent of the first floor is one thing,” Dempsey said. “Twenty-five percent of the whole wall is another thing entirely.”

Grafos abruptly shut down the discussion by calling for the question. Under that rule the council must immediately vote on whether or not to end all discussion and take a vote on the issue. The rest of the council, with Mayor Tom Towey absent, voted to end the discussion and vote on the issue. That vote to overturn the Planning Commission’s recommendation also had Dempsey as the lone no vote.

In other business, the council also heard requests from five economic development organizations who have applied for a portion of the $159,000 the city has allocated for nonprofits and economic development agencies in the 2011 budget. Nineteen organizations have requested grants totaling $395,217.

The council also unanimously approved a resolution granting an easement to East Spokane Water District 1 for a section of Center Road in the Edgecliff Neighborhood. “It is too steep for it to contain a roadway,” said Driskell. The easement will allow the water district to put in a water pump facility to boost water pressure in the area.

In May the council voted to postpone accepting a shoreline inventory report until Centennial Properties could prepare a report for the property it owns along the Spokane River. Those sections of shoreline were also in the city’s report, which is required as part of the process to prepare the city’s first Shoreline Master Plan. Centennial Properties is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

On Tuesday the council voted to accept the shoreline inventory, which had the report from Centennial Properties attached. “We felt it was appropriate to include it as information,” said senior planner Scott Kuhta.

The vote to accept the inventory was nearly unanimous, but McCaslin did not vote. “I’m reading my way through it,” McCaslin said as he flipped through the pages.