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Spokane Valley plan panel changes rules on crematories

It all came down to crematories, indoor recreation facilities and office uses in high-density residential zones during last week’s Spokane Valley Planning Commission meeting.

The commission has been reviewing what uses are allowed in which zones; many changes got limited discussion, but those three uses rose to the top. Crematories are not allowed in corridor mixed-use zones and the city staff believes they should not be because of the potential for a cremation unit to overload and produce noticeable emissions, said assistant planner Christina Janssen.

Commissioner John Carroll said funeral homes are allowed in corridor mixed-use zones so crematories should be as well. “I’m just trying to get them aligned to funeral homes,” he said.

“If somebody wants to put it there, it’s their right,” said commissioner Steve Neill. “It’s their property.”

Commissioner Joe Stoy said a funeral home on Pines Road has a crematory. “I didn’t even know it was a crematorium until I saw the sign,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to hinder anyone’s business.”

Carroll, Neill and Stoy were joined by Rod Higgins in voting to allow crematories in corridor mixed-use zones. Commission chairman Bill Bates and commissioners Rustin Hall and Fred Beaulac voted against it.

The discussion about allowing indoor recreation uses in heavy industrial zones was sparked by an indoor soccer business that wants to locate in the old Itron building in the Spokane Valley Industrial Park near Sullivan Road and Marietta Lane. Previous discussion raised concerns about foot traffic in an industrial area and proximity to hazardous uses. The discussion last week focused on whether to allow the use with a conditional use permit or impose special conditions on all indoor recreation uses in heavy industrial zones.

“The conditional use process is lengthy,” Janssen said. It involves a public hearing before the city’s hearing examiner, who has the authority to impose conditions on whatever project is proposed.

“I can’t support this one,” Hall said. One of the proposed conditions was to prohibit a recreation business from locating next to a business that involves hazardous materials, but there would be nothing to stop a hazardous use from moving in next door to an established indoor recreation facility, he said. “We can’t control the future,” he said.

Allowing recreation uses in an industrial area with just a few conditions has too much potential for something to go wrong, Bates said. “We’re just opening ourselves up,” he said.

The commission voted unanimously to allow indoor recreation facilities in a heavy industrial zone with a conditional use permit.

There was also a lively discussion on allowing office uses in high density residential zoning – also called MF2 – and a motion was made to allow the change, but commissioners backed off when told it would require an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan. “The zoning code needs to be in line with the comprehensive plan,” said Jannssen.

Neill pushed to allow office in high density residential before joining the other commissioners in voting his own motion down once staff made it clear a change couldn’t be made immediately. Neill said he sees offices next to apartment complexes all over.

“Why would that be a concern when this is already happening?” he said. “As long as they’re adjacent to an arterial, I don’t see why that would be a problem.”

Bates said there is plenty of room available on land that is already zoned for office use. “I agree with staff,” he said. “If we open MF2 up to office, we’re opening a can of worms.”

The commission’s recommendations on the permitted use changes will go to the City Council for a final decision.

In other business, the commission held a public hearing on allowing animal shelters in its corridor mixed-use zone. Spokane County requested the change. The county is looking at locations in Spokane Valley for a regional animal shelter.

Kennels, veterinary clinics and animal day cares are already allowed in corridor mixed use. The commission voted unanimously to recommend allowing animal shelters in the zone as long as they follow special conditions, including: being owned and operated by a public entity, no outside dog runs, a soundproof structure, complying with parking and landscaping requirements and being located on an arterial. An outdoor play area will be allowed as long as dogs are under human supervision and not left alone, the commission said.

The commission also voted unanimously to approve an update to their rules of procedure. The biggest change is the addition of several new sections in the statement of ethics. The new material covers conflict of interest and violations of the Open Public Meetings Act.

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