May 26, 2012 in Washington Voices

Zoning change a hot topic

Parcel near Broadway, Moore would become high-density lot
By The Spokesman-Review
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New lease for Splash Down

 The council unanimously approved a new lease with Splash Down, which is in Valley Mission Park. The water park has been dealing with declining attendance and has had trouble making its annual lease payments, said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone.

 The new agreement cuts the 2012 lease from $43,000 to $20,000 in addition to a payment of $8,166 in November to make up for missed payments in 2011. The same amount would be due in 2013, including the November payment for the second half of the missing payments from 2011. The annual lease would then rise to $25,000 from 2014 through 2018, Stone said.

 Grassel asked why the lease goes as far as 2018. “That is quite a ways out,” she said. “What if market conditions change?”

 “We’re kind of partners on this thing,” said Grafos. “It gives them a little bit of certainty.”

Tuesday’s meeting of the Spokane Valley City Council got a bit wild, with motions made and withdrawn, a discussion about whether a vote could be redone and lengthy public testimony. In the end the council decided to postpone a final vote on a controversial zone change request.

At issue was one of several changes proposed as part of the annual comprehensive plan review. The council unanimously approved all the changes except one for a 10.6-acre parcel south of Broadway Avenue and east of Moore Road. The land is zoned medium density residential, and property owner Arger Conklin LLC wants a change to high density residential. The planning commission supported the zone change, with a development agreement that increases requirements for setbacks and landscape buffers to shield the proposed apartment complex from the surrounding single-family homes.

The proposed complex would have access from Broadway and Conklin Road, which already is busy. Councilman Arne Woodard said he spent 45 minutes in a yard on Conklin Road watching traffic and measuring the narrow road. “It’s pretty tough for residents to get out of their driveways right now,” he said.

Community Development Director John Hohman said the property owner would be required to complete a traffic study once a project application is submitted. That study would help determine what mitigation is necessary.

“There are a lot of issues involving traffic,” he said. “It’s a little premature to talk about specifics at this point.”

Woodard said he wanted information on whether a traffic light would be required at Broadway and Conklin and whether Conklin would have to be widened from 40 feet to 60 feet.

Councilman Chuck Hafner said the planning commission recommended a development agreement, while city staff has said the proposed zone change meets the requirements in the city’s municipal code and no agreement is necessary. That leaves him wondering who to listen to, Hafner said. “That really puts us in a precarious position,” he said.

The residents who spoke to the council were united in their pleas for the council to deny the zone change. Some who spoke read letters from neighbors who could not attend. They complained about traffic issues, pedestrian safety, increased crime and the damage to their neighborhood. “I just can’t see this invasion into our community,” said Jan Wold.

Resident Gary Combs said he had to leave a 5-foot setback when he built a single-story garage on his property, the same setback that would be required for a 50-foot building. “If this is all that’s required for a high rise, I don’t quite buy that,” he said.

Geoff Potter said he owns a home on Moore Road and if the project goes through, he won’t be able to sell. “We’ll stay there because we have to,” he said.

Bob Endicott said his property would be bordered by the project on two sides. “I don’t really feel like I want to live in a fish bowl,” he said. Endicott was among several people who complained that they received no official notice that the vote was taking place. “It just seems like you all are just trying to sneak this by us,” he said.

Property owner Greg Arger said his projects usually have garages around the perimeter and the apartment buildings in the center. “It does provide good buffering,” he said. Arger said he grew up at Sprague and Evergreen. “We used to play out front in Sprague,” he said. “The neighborhood changed. Things changed.”

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said she didn’t think it was fair to allow a change that would benefit only one person, while negatively impacting so many other property owners. “It is in the middle of single-family residences,” she said. “I think that makes this an odd duck. I will be turning this project down.”

Woodard made a motion to consider the Arger zone change separately. The motion quickly passed, with Woodard, Grassel, Councilman Ben Wick and Mayor Tom Towey voting for it and Councilman Dean Grafos voting against it. Hafner and Councilman Gary Schimmels did not vote and Hafner indicated he wanted more discussion on the issue. A lengthy discussion followed about whether the vote could or should be redone before the council decided to simply move on.

After a quick unanimous vote to approve all the other proposed zone changes, Woodard made a motion to deny the zone change request on the Arger property. After more comments and suggestions from the council, Woodard agreed to withdraw his motion so the zone change can be considered again at a future meeting.

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