Residents in the Shelley Lake neighborhood got an early Christmas present in their stockings this week when the Spokane Valley hearing examiner agreed with their concerns about a proposed new development next door.
Hearing examiner Mike Dempsey ruled that developer Dennis Crapo of Diamond Rock Construction must “correct” the proposed plat to make it comply with a development agreement that Crapo negotiated with Spokane Valley in 2009. The agreement was made after neighbors complained about plans to rezone the site to multi-family residential and build an apartment complex.
“The preliminary plat fails to comply with the provision in the agreement that requires the housing constructed in the east 120 feet of the site to be set back 40 feet from the east property line,” Dempsey wrote in his decision.
The Fourth Avenue Townhomes project at 15818 E. Fourth Ave., was proposed to include 41 townhomes on a 3.77-acre parcel on the south side of Fourth Avenue. The proposed plat did comply with other areas of the agreement, including limiting the building height to 35 feet on the east 120 feet of the site.
During a recent public hearing Todd Whipple of Whipple Consulting Engineers argued that the agreement did not apply because it was written for multi-family housing and townhomes are considered single-family residences because they are individually owned. Several neighbors said the proposed units were too close to their backyards and said they felt the developer had misled them and used “bait and switch” tactics.
Dempsey wrote that the agreement was intended to apply to the town house units “regardless of their technical definition under the Spokane Valley Municipal Code as town house dwellings, a type of single-family dwelling.”
The project also doesn’t appear to comply with a section of city code that requires 10 percent of the gross area of a development zoned multi-family residential to be set aside as open space, Dempsey wrote.
Resident Bob Harris, president of the Shelley Lake Homeowners Association, said he was relieved by Dempsey’s decision. “We feel vindicated,” he said. “We’re hoping that we can arrive at what we originally wanted, which was a transition area between R2 housing and high density multi-family.”
“By golly, that’s wonderful news,” said Shelley Lake resident Bill Martin, who testified against the proposed project at the hearing.
Dempsey wrote that the developer also has the option of trying to get the Spokane Valley City Council to agree to amend the development agreement. Crapo can also appeal Dempsey’s decision in Spokane County Superior Court.
Whipple said Crapo has not yet decided how to proceed. “We’ve got the decision and we’re reviewing it,” he said. “Right now I don’t have any comment.”