The City Council expressed interest Tuesday in learning how much it would cost to set up a historic preservation program or contract it out.
Establishing a local program would allow property owners to take advantage of grants to pay for restoration work or special tax valuations to offset the costs of making improvements to a historic building, said Economic Development Coordinator Mike Basinger. “To date there has been little interest in historic preservation in our city,” he said.
Spokane has a full-time staffer to handle its historic preservation program and handles Spokane County’s program through an interlocal agreement for $5,000 a year. Basinger said he doesn’t know if Spokane would be willing to add Spokane Valley or what it might cost. Establishing an in-house historic preservation program “would be quite a task,” he said.
“I think we have some assets here in the Spokane Valley,” said councilman Dean Grafos. “I think we should at least look into this. Also, there may be an economic development advantage for our citizens.”
Councilman Chuck Hafner said he needed more information before he made a decision, including finding out what buildings might qualify for a historic register. “Let’s find out what we have first,” he said.
In other business, City Attorney Cary Driskell told the council he may need to explore legal options, including condemnation, to acquire needed right of way from a property owner to complete the Argonne Road Safety Project. The project calls for improvements to Argonne Road between Knox and Montgomery avenues, including a northbound right turn lane at Montgomery.
GVD Commercial Properties based in Orange, Calif., has been unwilling to sell the city a small amount of land needed to put in the turn lane. The company owns the parcel at 2314 N. Argonne Road, which houses a Caruso’s sandwich shop. “We have attempted to negotiate with them and just have not been able to reach a deal,” Driskell said.
The city is seeking a narrow strip of land that runs the entire length of the property along Argonne. It starts at 2 ½ feet wide at the southern end of the property and gradually grows to 4 feet wide at the northern end of the land. The building on the site is set fairly close to Argonne.
The project is needed to relieve traffic congestion on what is the city’s busiest stretch of road, Driskell said. Northbound traffic at the intersection hits highs of 1,800 vehicles per hour at peak travel times and about 475 of those drivers turn right onto Montgomery, he said. “It would remove about a quarter of the vehicles off this intersection more quickly,” he said.
Creating a turn lane would also make it easier for large trucks to make the turn. Currently many drivers swing left into the center lane before taking the right turn, he said. “They often times go up on the curb where pedestrians are meant to stand,” he said.
None of the council members asked questions or offered comments on the issue. A proposed ordinance is scheduled to come before the council for a first reading next week.