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Three new planning commissioners picked in Valley

The Spokane Valley City Council gave the planning commission a shot of new blood Tuesday night.

Council members appointed retired metal fabricator Kevin Anderson, business owner Christina Carlsen and kindergarten teacher Bob McCaslin, son of the late city councilman and state senator to the seven-member commission.

Mayor Tom Towey interviewed seven applicants. He recommended appointing Carlsen and McCaslin, and retaining incumbent commissioner Fred Beaulac.

“I really struggled with this one,” Towey said. “I think the planning commission in the future is going to be critical to this city.”

Councilman Arne Woodard said he was looking at it from “a new blood standpoint” and suggested appointing Anderson instead of Beaulac. Anderson is a member of the coffee group that has been meeting every weekday since before the 2009 elections that swept the Positive Change candidates into office.

The group frequently includes council members Dean Grafos and Chuck Hafner.

Both McCaslin and Anderson had applied for a planning commission vacancy in July that went to Beaulac, who had previously served on the commission from 2003 in 2008. In July several council members said they supported appointing him to the position because of his experience.

“It’s a new day,” Grafos said. “I think we need some new blood on the planning commission.”

Councilman Gary Schimmels made a motion to approve the mayor’s recommendations, but no one seconded it. Grafos then made a motion to appoint Anderson instead of Beaulac.

Councilman Ben Wick sounded a note of caution about losing the history and knowledge that the incumbents have. “I don’t want us to wipe the slate clean,” he said.

Wick made motions to appoint Beaulac instead of Anderson or McCaslin, but neither was seconded. In the final vote Grafos, Woodard, Hafner and Councilwoman Brenda Grassel voted to appoint Anderson to the commission instead of Beaulac. Schimmels, Wick and Towey voted no.

There was also some debate over the mayor’s recommendations for new members of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. The committee is headed by a council member and has two representatives of hotels/motels and two representatives of organizations eligible to receive the tourism funding. Towey recommended reappointing incumbents Lee Cameron of the Mirabeau Park Hotel and Jeff Fiman of Sterling Hospitality and adding Keith Backson of Visit Spokane and Herman Meier of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum.

Wick, who is taking over as chairman of the committee, objected to having Backson on the committee since his organization is not based in Spokane Valley. “I have nothing against him,” he said. “We’re trying to have a Valley focus.”

The council voted to approve the mayor’s recommendations with Wick voting no.

In other business, Wick presented the report from the economic development committee. The committee heard from river groups, the hospital industry, tourism groups, business groups and local developers over several months, Wick said. “We collected all of our goals from them,” he said. “I was actually amazed. We got quite a lengthy list of goals and projects.”

The committee picked several goals for the city to work toward. Some of the short-term goals include promoting the city as being business-friendly, promoting the Spokane River and working to create a certified sites program. “We don’t have a lot of river access points or maps,” Wick said.

Figuring out long-term goals was more difficult, Wick said, but one of the top ones was to improve planning. “We need a plan,” he said.

Several groups talked about their desire for a city center and enhancing existing sporting facilities. Wick said the committee’s report doesn’t include specific details on how to accomplish anything, it just gives suggestions. “It’s just kind of the broad brush,” he said. “I want to make sure we as a council do something to keep that moving.”

Dwight Hume said he was representing property owner Harlan Douglass, who has concerns about the goal of creating districts. “I just want to shoot a shot across the legislative bow,” Hume said. If the city begins to look at different zoning for different areas it begins to look too much like the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan, he said.

Business owner Susan Scott said she didn’t care for the discussion on a city center. “I thought the council was working on removing that designation,” she said. Something might happen naturally around the new park and library proposed for the corner of Sprague Avenue and Herald Road but the city shouldn’t try to force it, she said.