Chickens may be on the menu at an upcoming Spokane Valley City Council meeting.
On Tuesday council members didn’t shoo away a request from a citizen to broaden the city’s rules that currently restrict chickens to lots larger than 40,000 square feet, though there were a few squawks of disapproval from some who remember the complaints the city had to deal with before the current rules went into effect.
In Spokane Valley there are 1,300 single-family parcels that meet that size requirement, said community development director Kathy McClung. “I checked with code compliance and we get one to two complaints a month,” she said.
Councilman Bob McCaslin said he recently watched a television program on one city’s fight against chickens, mostly noisy roosters. “It turned into a horrendous problem,” he said.
Councilwoman Rose Dempsey said she wouldn’t object to expanding the rules if only hens were allowed and there was a requirement that the hens be in a fenced backyard. “There’s a lot of things kids can learn from chickens,” she said.
McCaslin approved of her suggestions. “You draft it, I’ll vote for it,” he said.
Councilman Dean Grafos said he was also open to changes in the rules if the number of hens was limited by the size of the lot. “I don’t think you need to have a chicken farm,” he said.
Longtime councilman Bill Gothmann said the ordinance was created for a reason. “The only reason that ordinance is on the books is because people complained,” he said. Councilwoman Brenda Grassel suggested allowing chickens as long as there is no odor or noise.
Cary Driskell, the acting city attorney, said staff would research options and come back with a proposed ordinance. “Noxious odors are really hard to define,” he said.
Councilman Gary Schimmels disagreed with reevaluating the chicken rules. “We’re just asking for a lot of problems,” he said.
The issue provided a few lighthearted moments for the council. During a later break in the meeting, Grafos joked that he didn’t want to “run afoul of the law.”
In other business, the council discussed the possibility of putting new signs on Interstate 90 to direct motorists to Spokane Valley businesses.
Neil Kersten, the public works director, said all signs must be approved by the Washington State Department of Transportation. The city can change the Sprague exit sign to list both Sprague Avenue and Appleway Boulevard. Another option is to advertise Sprague and Appleway as a business route. Sprague was a designated business route until the 1980s when it was discontinued for some reason, Kersten said. The city would likely have to pay for part or all of the new signs, he said.
Grafos said he favored a business route sign. “That’s the type of sign that I think would be helpful,” he said. “I know it’s money.”
Kersten said he would check with DOT to see if they would approve the signs and how much they would cost.
Senior engineer Steve Worley presented the council with a list of regionally important projects that could be considered for upcoming Spokane Regional Transportation Council grants. The list, carried over in its entirety from last year, included the Barker Road railroad overpass, extending Appleway Boulevard from University Road to Tschirley Road, improving Sullivan Road from Indiana Avenue to Wellesley Avenue, resurfacing Sprague Avenue from Evergreen Road to Sullivan Road and doing a 5-mile Millwood-Spokane Valley trail.
Grafos objected to including the Appleway extension project. “Are we stuck with doing this?” he said. “If you don’t want to submit this, we don’t have to,” Kersten said.
Gothmann agreed, saying the extension can no longer be justified under the changing Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan. Kersten said he will take it off the list as the other projects are more important. “In our mind, the Sullivan Road project is a major project,” he said. “Barker Road, certainly. Sprague we just need money for that before it falls apart.”
During the meeting the council also voted to send a proposed text amendment to the planning commission that would remove temporary restrictions on developing the City Center zone of the SARP after a new core street is planned. Dempsey said she’s glad that rule will be reconsidered. “I had a problem with this initially,” she said.
Grafos asked McClung if she had information on adding vehicle sales as a permitted use in the City Center zone. Last week senior planner Scott Kuhta said that would likely require a comprehensive plan amendment. “We asked for that,” Grafos said. “Are we going to address that?”
McClung said city staff will bring back former city attorney Mike Connelly to address that specific issue at the Oct. 5 council meeting.