The Spokane Valley City Council listened to the repeated pleas of residents and voted Tuesday to require a development agreement before rezoning 10 acres to high density residential on Conklin Road just south of Broadway Avenue.
The land, owned by Greg Arger, is surrounded by single-family homes. Neighbors have complained about the potential for increased crime, increased traffic and having tall apartment buildings overlooking their backyards. The city’s planning commission recommended approval of the zone change, if a development agreement was negotiated to increase setbacks from neighbors and reduce building height and density, but at previous meetings the council seemed reluctant to require an agreement, in part because it would delay the apartment complex project Arger wants to build.
Resident Gary Combs said he didn’t want a high rise only a few feet away from his fence. “I just don’t believe that’s right,” he said. “I don’t think you would want it in your backyard.”
“I do not want it to be high density,” said resident Jan Wold. “It’s bad enough as it is with all the big-box stores. It would be nice if we could be heard as people. I’m really upset about it.”
“We have to consider the impact on the existing neighborhood,” said Mayor Tom Towey. It’s the city’s job to preserve and protect the character of existing neighborhoods, he said. “I’m in favor of higher density for this particular parcel with a development agreement.”
There was again considerable discussion on how long a development agreement would take to be negotiated and considered by the council. Councilman Ben Wick asked if the council could just change the city code to require greater setbacks. “Would that be a faster process?” he said.
“I think it would take too long to change the municipal code,” Towey said.
Combs pointed out that the council had the same discussion about a development agreement previously. “If we had started three weeks ago, we’d be three weeks into the process,” he said.
“I can appreciate the developer’s impatience,” said resident Linda Rockhold. “I don’t think we’re being a bit unreasonable to want to know exactly what he is going to do.”
Arger said he has done a preliminary site plan that shows a setback of between 40 and 70 feet in most areas and argued that a development agreement isn’t necessary. He has financing lined up and wants to move forward, he said. “It jeopardizes the project,” he said of the delay. “Not that it wouldn’t happen but it just frustrates it.”
It is also unlikely that he would build up to the maximum height of 50 feet because that would require an elevator, he said.
Councilman Gary Schimmels said the city should simply go with its current code requirements. “It is on the books,” he said. “We have to be fair.”
“Tonight we’re voting on zoning,” said Councilwoman Brenda Grassel. “We’re not voting on a project.” The land could be sold to a different developer with different plans tomorrow, she said. The land was zoned low density residential until four years ago and the nearby homeowners have to be considered, she said. “What about their property rights?”
The original motion before the council was to approve the first reading of the proposed zone change ordinance, but Towey proposed amending it to include the requirement that a development agreement be negotiated with the property owner. Wick, Grassel and Chuck Hafner joined him in voting to amend the motion, but once the motion was changed to require a development agreement all seven council members voted in favor of it.
After the agreement is negotiated it will be presented at a public hearing before the council votes on whether to accept it.