April 21, 2011 in Washington Voices

Valley Council takes key step to kill SARP

Approves ordinance to end revitalization plan
By The Spokesman-Review
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The Spokane Valley City Council took the next-to-last step in eliminating the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan Tuesday when it voted to advance an ordinance to kill the plan.

The move was no surprise, however, given that four of the current City Council members promised during their election campaigns in 2009 to do away with the plan. Only Councilman Bill Gothmann voted against the ordinance. Councilman Gary Schimmels was absent.

Several people testified in favor of the council’s action. Dwight Hume, who owns a land use planning service, said he represents several large land owners who are against SARP. He said the city’s density is not enough to warrant such a plan. Until then the plans should be “repealed, shelved and preserved for when it’s time has come.”

Complaints that the repeal of SARP would leave the city without a plan are unwarranted, he said. “Do not be fooled or concerned by such rhetoric that there is no plan, for it comes from the mouths of those who don’t own land burdened by SARP,” he said. “These are the people who would love to experience the ambience of Portland without the eight-hour drive and at everyone else’s expense.”

CarMax real estate manager John McNamara submitted a letter to the council in which he estimated that his company would bring between 100 and 120 jobs and $1.4 million in annual sales tax revenue to the city. The national used car company has a contract to buy nine acres of land at 7800 E. Sprague next to Dishman Dodge. “The CarMax store development team is of the opinion that without full repeal of SARP, development of a new CarMax store is simply not feasible,” he wrote.

Business owner Susan Scott said SARP was never designed with the best interest of existing property owners and businesses in mind. She urged the council to advance the ordinance “so our city can begin planning for our future.”

Councilman Arne Woodard said he has been speaking to business owners, who all want SARP gone. “What they do want is consistency and they want stability,” he said.

Gothmann said that those opposed to SARP have been using “blatantly false” arguments against the plan, including that it was a power grab, a $42 million unfunded mandate that would raise property taxes and that it would harm businesses on Sprague. He also questioned what plan exists to replace SARP. “I came to City Hall this morning,” he said. “I looked in my inbox. There was no plan for the revitalization of Sprague.”

Councilman Dean Grafos said he disagreed with Gothmann and pointed CarMax adding up to 120 employees. “I think that’s where our emphasis should be,” he said. CarMax would also bring in people from Eastern Washington, Idaho and Canada who would visit Spokane Valley overnight and spend money here, he said.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel commended “business owners and citizens who have fought the good fight for many years now.” She specifically congratulated business owners Scott and Barry Curry for “doing what was right.”

When SARP was introduced in 2007 he really liked the plan, said Mayor Tom Towey. But when he asked a council member how it would be paid for he was told that would be up to a future council to decide, he said. “That’s not a plan.”

It’s time to explore other options for helping business owners along Sprague, he said. “We have to sit down with our business community.”

In other business, the council voted unanimously to advance a second ordinance containing the other comprehensive plan amendments. Most of those changes are minor ones to numbers and maps that are updated every year. Both ordinances are scheduled for a final vote by the council during the April 26 council meeting.

A controversial comprehensive plan amendment dealing with rezoning property next to St. John Vianney Church was removed by the city council last week for further negotiations with the property owner. It will come back before the council at a later date.

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