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Spokane Valley council hones sign plan

Project meant to beautify gateway to city

The Spokane Valley City Council refined plans for an entrance sign at Appleway Boulevard and Thierman Street on Tuesday even as they expressed concerns about the cost.

The council liked a design option that has a few trees on the west end of the site and the sign flanked by several trees on the east end. The rough design leaves room at the tip of the triangle-shaped site for a proposed donation of public art by the Spokane Valley Arts Council.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Mike Stone said he removed several trees from the proposal after earlier council member comments. “We’ve talked about this for a few months now,” he said. “I have heard everything you said, not only about the design but the cost.”

Councilman Chuck Hafner said he liked the design but wasn’t willing to spend $120,000 on it. “I wouldn’t agree with that at all,” he said.

Some of the trees on the site could be shifted to the west end to provide a border between the site and a nearby business, said Councilwoman Brenda Grassel. She was also concerned that the trees behind the sign might block views of local businesses. “I don’t know what the correct balance is,” she said.

It is important to complete the project to make the area more attractive to local businesses, said Councilman Dean Grafos. “We should move forward on this as soon as possible,” he said. Grafos also said he was OK with spending $120,000 on the project, though the city should try to cut costs if possible. “We approved $120,000,” he said.

Grafos was referring to a unanimous vote earlier in the meeting to approve the first reading of an ordinance to add several capital projects to the 2012 budget. The projects included a swale on the west end of Sprague Avenue, temporary repairs to the Sullivan Bridge, the reconstruction of South Evergreen and $120,000 for the proposed sign project. None of the council members asked questions or made any comments before the vote.

Councilman Arne Woodard said the project needs to move forward. “At least we have a plan that we’ve agreed on,” he said.

In other business, the council discussed creating an ordinance to relax limits on the number of alcohol advertising signs businesses can display in windows or on the outside of the building. State law limits each business to four signs totaling up to 1,600 square inches. “The city can opt out of the state requirement and lift that restriction,” said deputy city attorney Kelly Konkright.

Woodard noted that the city’s other sign codes would still apply. “I don’t see a problem with it,” he said. “If they have my favorite beer, I just want to know about it so I can go in and get one.”

The request to lift the restrictions came from Mike Robb, owner of the Iron Horse Bar and Grill, Konkright said. Grafos suggested suspending the rules and approving a city code change immediately. The proposed ordinance is scheduled for a first reading on Feb. 28.

Such rule suspensions are usually only done for small items that don’t change city policy, said City Manager Mike Jackson. “This is an actual ordinance change,” he said. The city usually does a first and second reading of all ordinances to allow the public a chance to comment, he said.

Mayor Tom Towey said it was important that the public be allowed a chance to have input.

“If there isn’t a fine levied on any business I don’t see why we can’t wait until Feb. 28,” he said.