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Vocal Point: City has chance to plan its future correctly

The Spokane Valley City Council will soon make a decision on the fate of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan.  One philosophy contends “any plan’s better than no plan.”  The other believes SARP is fundamentally flawed and “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

The initial objective was a simple city center.  It evolved into a 6-mile corridor makeover.   From the onset, the lingo flew fast and furious, disguising the underlying agendas and consequences.  Infomercial-style presentations and workshops culminated in a convoluted vision bordering on hallucination.

Pictures featured twinkling, lighted trees lining a bustling two-story town center with cafe seating spilling onto the wide sidewalks.  Nostalgic images of “grand mansions on display” lined Appleway. Sprague Avenue was reborn with nary a utility pole or power line in sight.  The sell was aggressive and relentless, all under the guise of revitalization.

“But wait, there’s more!” they cried. “Order now and get the plans for a magnificent new city hall and the extension of Appleway. Be one of the first 100 callers and receive a cutting-edge Form Based Code, 1,000-parcel rezone and, a bonus 1-mile hybrid traffic plan to appease the most discriminating special interests.” 

For the previous council, the infomercial was too much to resist. SARP was finalized, adopted and safely embedded in the comprehensive plan just before the 2009 City Council elections. The new council, citizens, landowners and businesses began to closely examine what had been purchased on their behalf and found it not “as advertised.”  

Our brand-new plan had numerous flaws and was missing critical pieces. There was no deed to the land for the Appleway extension or a library to support the city center. No land title for a city hall, no developer for the project and no utility companies willing to take on the expensive burden of burying (undergrounding) utility lines.

So, after recent adjustments and revisions, what’s left of this plan to be saved?

The Form Based Code and rezone were specifically designed to underwrite a city center that is no longer part of the plan. A majority of structures on Sprague are now nonconforming thanks to this dastardly duo of de-vitalization.  The city’s $1 million investment in SARP pales in comparison to the collective millions invested by existing businesses and landowners that are being threatened and harmed by the down-zoning, unfunded mandates and nonconformity issues created by the Form Based Code and rezone. This amount of collateral damage is not only unacceptable, it’s completely unnecessary. Repealing SARP will return the 2007 comprehensive plan zoning and regulations.

The only other component of SARP is the return of two-way traffic to a 1-mile strip of Sprague.  It’s here we find the last bastion of support for SARP. A “return to two-way traffic” was skillfully shepherded through numerous workshops and meetings eventually reaping a token 1-mile redo on Sprague at U-City.  Sprague is a public road.  A public vote of this issue is a more appropriate way to deal with this matter once and for all and bring some long overdue certainty to this area.

There are better ways to revitalize the corridor than hanging on to the remnants of this “sow’s ear” known as SARP.  The council is poised to make a decision to repeal SARP and restore the investment of existing business on the corridor.  Our city can then begin planning for its future in an economically responsible manner that’s consistent with Valley culture and values that respect property rights and support the free market system.

Reach Susan Scott by phone at (509) 922-3610.