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Spokane Valley Council expands new development panel

Members also vote to relax city’s sign code

The Spokane Valley City Council agreed to expand its ad hoc economic development committee again Tuesday when they couldn’t choose between two proposed committee members.

Mayor Tom Towey proposed naming eight citizens to the committee: three business representatives, three tourism representatives and two citizens at large. He suggested Keith Backsen, Visit Spokane vice president; Julie Cohen, Holiday Inn Express general manager; Robin Toth, Greater Spokane Incorporated vice president of business development; John Miller, president of Divcon Inc.; Wayne Frost, Greenstone Corp. managing director – commercial; John Guarisco, account executive at MDI Marketing; Ben Small, superintendent of the Central Valley School District; and J. Grant Person, vice president of NAI Black Commercial Real Estate.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said she favored putting Erin Gurtel, marketing/sales manager for the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, into the tourism category and moving Toth into a different category. “(Gurtel) represents a lot of car shows and the fair,” Grassel said. “Other than that, I agree with your other candidates.”

Councilman Arne Woodard said he also wanted Gurtel on the committee. Several of the candidates would be better making presentations to the committee instead of serving on the committee, he said.

Grassel suggested adding a third citizen at large so both Gurtel and Toth could be on the committee. Towey said he was concerned about making the group, which also includes Grassel and Councilman Ben Wick, too large. “You’re getting to the stretch point,” he said.

“It would surprise me if every applicant could make every meeting,” Grassel said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the mayor’s recommendations and add Gurtel. Wick was absent.

In other business, the council also voted unanimously to approve a new sign code that relaxes the rules on how many signs businesses can have. Signs now allowed include wall signs on multifamily complexes, off-premise directional signs and A-frame signs.

The old code required a permit for any temporary sign. The proposed code allowed one temporary sign without a permit, but a permit would be required for additional temporary signs that could be displayed twice a year for 30 days at a time. Councilman Dean Grafos suggested extending that limit to 60 days at a time. “Thirty days isn’t very long,” he said. The council agreed.

Senior planner Lori Barlow showed pictures of several businesses that currently have multiple temporary signs to indicate which signs would be allowed under the new code. “Technically, each of those is in violation of our current code,” she said. “It would appear that if there is a single temporary sign, there are many temporary signs.”

The most significant change in the new code is to allow businesses one free standing sign per 200 feet of street frontage, plus a sign for each 200 additional feet of street frontage or fraction thereof. The old code allowed one sign per parcel.

The planning commission had recommended one sign every 500 feet on arterials and one sign every 300 feet on other nonresidential streets. The language allowing a sign every 200 feet was proposed by Pro Sign Inc. President Steve Wineinger and was well-received by the council.

Wineinger made other suggestions for changes that would need a public hearing, Barlow said. The council members said they favored passing the code now and tackling the other changes later rather than delaying the entire sign code. “I would like to see this passed this evening,” Grafos said.

Wineinger testified in favor of the new code. “This draft in front of you, I think, is a pretty good one,” he said.

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