January 13, 2011 in Washington Voices

Council OKs letter in support of housing plan

By The Spokesman-Review
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What might have been a simple discussion at Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting on a letter supporting a low-income senior housing project quickly sidetracked into a debate on the merits of the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan.

Rockwood Retirement Communities has applied to receive $4 million in low-income housing tax credits for their project at Appleway Boulevard and Farr Road and requested the letter to help boost the score on which the request will be ranked. Councilman Bill Gothmann said he was in favor of the project. “I’m glad to see this go forward,” he said.

Gothmann also said he spoke to a representative from Community Frameworks Development who said the project is moving forward because it is in the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan area. “He indicated to me that he would get additional points because he was within a revitalization program,” he said.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel questioned whether Gothmann was basing his statements on facts. Councilman Dean Grafos said that all SARP does is hurt property owners and appeared to be gaining steam for a long statement blasting the SARP in general when he was cut off by Councilwoman Rose Dempsey calling for a point of order. “We are discussing this letter,” she said. “We are not discussing SARP.”

“I think the point of order is well taken,” said Mayor Tom Towey.

Chris Venne, the development finance manager for Community Frameworks, said there is a lot of competition for the tax credits. “This is a statewide competition,” he said.

Having the letter of support from the city will net the project seven additional points, Venne said. It will also get five points for being in an area targeted for low-income housing and two points for being in a revitalization plan area. “If we get none of those seven points it would be difficult to compete,” he said.

Grassel asked what would happen if the tax credit application is submitted and then the zoning changes before the credits are awarded. “That’s an unknown,” Venne said. “It isn’t covered in the rules.”

After the discussion the council members voted unanimously to send the letter of support. Councilman Bob McCaslin was absent.

In other business, the council also voted unanimously to approve a parks maintenance contract with Senske Lawn and Tree Care. The contract is going up only 1.5 percent from the 2010 amount, which includes the addition of maintenance at Discovery Playground. “The increase is very, very reasonable,” Grafos said.

“I think they’ve done a great job,” Gothmann said. “Our parks are in pristine shape.”

Despite the full council chambers, there was limited public comment. Resident Geoff Webb said he was pleased with the plowing, but is not happy with the condition of the sidewalks and asked about the city’s ordinance that requires businesses and homeowners to keep sidewalks clear. “Why isn’t it being enforced?” he said. “It’s downright dangerous.”

Resident Steve Neill spoke against the SARP plan, calling it “dangerous and impossible to kill.” He criticized recent newspaper ads calling for a return to two-way traffic on Sprague, saying it would cost $5 million to switch it back and cause traffic backups. He asked the council to “enforce the will of the people and end all possibility of SARP.”

At next Tuesday’s meeting the council is scheduled to have the first reading of a proposed emergency ordinance to eliminate the city center zone from SARP and replace it with mixed use avenue zoning.

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