The Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday in a split decision to approve a development agreement for property near Conklin Road and Broadway Avenue.
Property owner Greg Arger applied to rezone 10 acres to high-density residential in order to build an apartment complex. Neighbors complained they don’t want apartment buildings towering over their backyards and that the development would create too much traffic on already overburdened streets. The development agreement is intended to mitigate the impact of a zone change on the surrounding neighborhood.
The agreement limits the density to 22 units per acre. The development’s main access will be on Broadway, not Conklin. Alki Road will not be extended and the developer will build a 10-foot-wide shared use path from Moore Road to Sonora Road on the south side of the project. The developer also agreed to a 40-foot buffer around the perimeter of the property in which building height will be limited to 35 feet.
Things looked promising at the beginning of the meeting, with several residents giving their grudging acceptance to the agreement. “We are pleased there has at least been an attempt to compromise,” resident Katherine Potter said.
“I’m very pleased to have the buffer if we have to have this development,” Jan Wold said. Wold also said that she didn’t believe Councilman Dean Grafos should vote on the agreement since he disclosed that Arger contributed to his election campaign. “I do think it taints your vote,” she said. “I’m asking that you not be allowed to vote.”
“I would ask that he not vote for this project,” Cheryl McManamon said. “I don’t think he can vote fairly and impartially.”
But the mood of the crowd quickly turned when neighbors realized that not only would buildings be allowed within the 40-foot buffer, they could be two stories high and within 5 five feet of the property line. Councilwoman Brenda Grassel suggested stipulating that buildings in the zone should be nonresidential, which could include garages, carports and a recreation center. “We’ve already got Google Earth and drones looking at us,” she said. “It would be nice to have privacy in your own backyard.”
Grafos made a motion to alter the agreement to include a restriction on balconies or decks on buildings in the buffer that would overlook neighboring yards. His amendment was approved, with Grassel and Councilmen Churck Hafner and Ben Wick voting against it.
“I don’t care if they have a balcony or not,” said Potter. “If they have a big window they can still look down at our kids swimming in the pool.”
One resident complained that he’s right back to having a two-story apartment building right next to his fence. “It’s completely outrageous,” he said. “It’s completely turned around.”
Resident Richard Wilcox said it was his understanding that the 40-foot restricted zone meant the developer couldn’t build there at all.
Five feet isn’t enough space, said Linda Rockhold. “I assumed it meant 40 feet from the property line to the buildings,” she said.
“I can’t build a shop five feet off my property line in my backyard,” said Luke Davis. “Why does he get special treatment?”
Arger said it was always his intent to put buildings in the restricted zone. It could be garages or it could be townhouses, he said. “We have not gone through design criteria on this,” he said.
Grassel said the point of the development agreement was to mitigate the impact on the neighbors and there should be a buffer between high density and low density. “I don’t feel led or moved to approve the zoning change,” she said. She made a motion to also ban windows on buildings within the 40-foot restricted area that overlook neighboring yards, but it died when no one seconded it.
“We could pick this apart all night,” said Mayor Tom Towey. “I think this one is the best we can do.”
Grafos and Towey joined Arne Woodard and Gary Schimmels in approving the development agreement. “I know if I was living there I would rather it not be there,” Woodard said. “We’ve done everything we can to protect the neighbors there as best we can.”
Now that the development agreement has been approved, the council is tentatively scheduled to hold a final vote on whether to grant the zone change to high density residential at the July 31 meeting. There has been some discussion about moving the vote to the Aug. 14 meeting.