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Council ignores voters’ wishes on city center

The City Council is about to trade our city center for a used car lot. On Jan. 18, the City Council began consideration of an emergency amendment to eliminate our designated city center. The designated city center is part of the Comprehensive Plan, a 20-year plan that was passed by the City Council in October of 2009. That plan came about as a result of over 80 workshops, neighborhood meetings, studies, surveys and public hearings held during 2003-2009 in which the citizens of Spokane Valley consistently said they wanted a city center in order to establish an identity for our city.

Several members of the current council came on board with a pocket agenda that included rolling back any parts of the plan already enacted, stopping any further actions and in general repealing the plan. Those members began to claim mere months after the plan’s passage, and without the benefit of a single poll, workshop, survey or neighborhood meeting, that the plan is a failure and not what the citizens want. Now those members have seized on an opportunity to advance their pocket agenda by responding to a request from one of their campaign contributors. The campaign contributor owns land within the designated city center and wants to sell a portion of it to a used car dealer. Since used car lots are prohibited in the city center the campaign contributor requested the City Council’s help. 

The council members indebted to the contributor are seeking to pass an emergency amendment to the plan that will eliminate the city center designation and change the area’s zoning to one that will allow used car sales. Those members, even when presented with a viable alternative that would  allow the contributor to sell his land and Spokane Valley to maintain a city center, rejected the alternative flat out, no discussion, no debate.  They assert the city center designation is hurting people, hence the need for an emergency amendment. To date the council has not presented any facts or data to support their claim for an emergency amendment, nor have they provided any evidence, anecdotal or concrete, to support their assertions that the designation is hurting people.  

Further, the City Council, without discussing the Planning Commission’s finding, is rejecting its recommendation to deny the ordinance. The Planning Commission found after a public hearing (1) the amendment was processed too quickly and without sufficient public input, (2) there wasn’t sufficient statistical information or survey of the community to gauge citizen support, (3) the city center provides guidance and stability for future economic development, (4) that a city center is necessary for the long-term viability of Spokane Valley, and (5) it is not in the public interest to move forward without a plan to implement a city center. 

We the citizens of Spokane Valley cannot allow those members who serve special interests to dominate the City Council and disregard our wishes. If the council will not ask us what we want, then we have to tell the council in no uncertain terms what we want. I would encourage every citizen to attend and speak at the council meeting, write a letter, send an email, make a phone call, or send a fax, just do whatever you can to voice your opinion and protect your rights to have the city you want. Do you want a used car lot or a city center?

John Carroll

Spokane Valley