The public apparently had nothing to say about the city of Spokane’s Valley proposed public access plan for the Spokane River. No one gave any testimony during a public hearing before the city’s planning commission last Thursday and the only written comments came from various state and local agencies as well as the Spokane Tribe of Indians.
Some people attended an open house on the plan hosted by the city, said senior planner Lori Barlow, but “we didn’t hear anything of a real concern from anyone who attended.”
The public access plan is part of the city’s state-mandated update of its Shoreline Master Program.
The draft plan doesn’t call for adding new access points to the Spokane River but focuses on improving the ones in place by paving trails or adding parking and other amenities. Barlow said she doesn’t anticipate that a landowner would be required to add access as part of a development project unless they increase demand for access to the river or the project somehow impairs existing access.
Planning Commission chairman Bill Bates asked if the city has to provide a specific amount of access. “When we say it’s good, what are we basing it on?” he said.
Barlow said she isn’t aware of a standard, but that the Centennial Trail provides a lot of access. “Over 60 percent of our property along the river is publicly owned,” she said.
The commissioners voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council approve the draft plan with minor changes. The most significant change was to specify that the boat ramps envisioned for Sullivan Park and a couple of other locations would be for nonmotorized boats.
In other business, city staff presented a proposed change to the city’s municipal code to allow townhouses in the neighborhood commercial zone as a permitted use. It was previously a permitted use but was removed last year, said planning manager Scott Kuhta. “It seemed like it was there mostly as a mistake,” he said.
A property owner has recently expressed interest in putting townhouses on a parcel in a neighborhood commercial zone, he said. A townhouse is defined as a two-story, single-family unit with up to three units attached to each other, Kuhta said. They look similar to apartments but are sold on individual lots. The neighborhood commercial zone is designed as a buffer between commercial zones and single-family homes and usually includes smaller businesses, he said. “Townhouses probably do fit OK in a neighborhood commercial zone.”
Only a few small areas are zoned neighborhood commercial and not much of that land is vacant, Kuhta said. “Most of these are already developed,” he said. “We’re trying to allow some flexibility.”
Several commissioners asked what development requirements such a project would have to meet, such as setbacks. Kuhta said he would look into the development standards.