January 17, 2013 in Washington Voices

Five to interview for Valley city council seat

Council also discusses shops, street project
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Five of nine applicants for a vacant Spokane Valley City Council position garnered enough votes to move forward to a public interview scheduled for Jan. 29.

Those receiving the nod during Tuesday’s council meeting were former state legislative candidate Amy Biviano, current city planning commissioners Kevin Anderson and Rod Higgins, Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council executive director Linda Thompson and real estate appraiser Samuel Wood.

There was an opportunity for the public to comment, but no one lobbied the council to pick a particular candidate.

Councilman Arne Woodard thanked all those who applied. “I’ve been on your side of the table,” said Woodard, who was appointed to his seat. “It is kind of nerve wracking.”

The interviews will be during the regularly scheduled council meeting on Jan. 29. The council is scheduled to appoint someone Feb. 5.

In other business, the council asked staff to work on amending city code to address shops and storage sheds in residential areas. In the past year or so the city has had several oversized shops with small dwelling units constructed, said community development director John Hohman. “What really sparked this was some complaints about a structure on South Progress,” Hohman said.

Pictures of the project show a large building with three garage doors with an apartment perched on top. The garage doors are up to 12 feet high, Hohman said. “It dwarfs the single family homes on each side,” he said.

Hohman said he believes such structures are inconsistent with residential neighborhoods. “The shop use is emphasized over any residential component,” he said.

He showed a picture of another example that showed a two-story building with garages on the bottom and a living unit with a balcony on top. It was significantly larger than the home next to it. “We don’t have anything specific in the code that addresses these issues,” Hohman said.

Councilman Dean Grafos said he believes that some people are building oversized shops with living units to get around city rules blocking large shops on otherwise vacant lots, whether they own a vacant lot next to their home or across town. Current rules stipulate that there has to be a house on the property in order to build a shop without a living unit included.

“Dean is on to something,” said Woodard. “People are trying to get around that second lot thing.”

Woodard and Grafos both suggested reducing the height limit of such buildings, which is currently set at 35 feet. Woodard said he doesn’t want to limit property rights, “but at the same time we have to find something that works for the Valley.”

There’s also a problem with large shops only five feet from property lines, Hohman said. He showed a picture of two large shops next to each other right up against the back fences. “They really crowd the back property line,” he said. The shops cast a shadow over the houses next door, he said. “It’s like a wall just adjacent to the deck.

The council also discussed a change order for a street preservation project on Dishman-Mica Road completed last summer. Council approval is required because the $29,800 in changes account for more than 15 percent of the project cost, said senior capital projects engineer Steve Worley.

The changes included replacing a cracked concrete curb and gutter, changes to the installation of a traffic signal loop and additional costs for flagging. The city also decided to pave a bike lane to avoid having a construction joint between the traffic lane and the bike lane, Worley said.

Most of the changes occurred because the project was put together on short notice and wasn’t based on the normal topographic survey, Worley said. “We quickly put the bid package together based on aerial photos,” he said.

“So how do you get closer on the next job?” Grafos said. “Twenty percent is a bit much.”

Worley said staff has plenty of time to get this year’s street preservation projects together and won’t be in a rush. “We learned from what we did last year,” he said.

Woodard said he was OK with paying the extra costs. “I don’t see one of these that’s a mistake on the part of the contractor,” he said. “It was on the part of the city.”

Staff was correct to make the changes to improve the project, Woodard said. “I think the things that you did here will make that a better stretch of road,” he said.


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