The Spokane Valley City Council moved a step closer to filling a vacancy in its ranks by voting Tuesday to interview five candidates next week for the seat vacated by Rose Dempsey. Candidates had to be nominated and receive at least three votes at this week’s council meeting in order to advance. The council will interview the following: SCOPE volunteer John Baldwin, materials coordinator Steven Neill, IT system administrator Ben Wick, customer service representative Jennie Willardson and planning commissioner Arne Woodard.
The council also briefly discussed the new vacancy created by the recent death of Councilman Bob McCaslin. Mayor Tom Towey said the council can only fill one vacancy at a time and must complete the current process before beginning again. The council has 90 days to appoint a replacement for McCaslin. The council is scheduled to discuss a precise timeline and procedure for filling his seat at the Tuesday meeting.
In other business, council members approved several ordinances and motions. It is now legal for people living in residential zones to keep backyard chickens. Previous rules limited chickens to residential lots larger than 40,000 square feet. One chicken is allowed for each 2,000 square feet in lot size, up to a maximum of 25 birds. The council also voted to specify that birds must simply be contained on their home property rather than be rendered incapable of flight. Roosters are still banned, however.
Resident Grant Rice thanked the council for its vote. “This will be a help for people who are out of work or having a hard time feeding their family,” he said.
Bridget Jackson spoke in favor of allowing roosters. “Could the roosters have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ thing?” she said. “I’m just sticking up for roosters.”
“I notice the citizens want this,” said Councilman Bill Gothmann. “Things change and this is one of the things we should change.”
The council also voted to approve tougher language in the rules that apply to adult retail businesses. Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said she would prefer to make the ordinance tougher still and asked city staff to bring the ordinance back if it doesn’t work to curb illegal practices.
A written report was presented to the council on a railroad quiet zone neighbors have requested at the Park Road and Vista Road Union Pacific Railroad crossings. The report estimates that it would cost the city $82,551 for a consultant to hold neighborhood meetings, do design work and file preliminary paperwork with the Federal Railroad Administration. The cost estimate does not include the cost of construction.
Councilman Dean Grafos said he would like the estimate to be a discussion item at an upcoming meeting so the council can decide whether or not to spend the money needed for the consultant’s work.