A proposal to add gymnastics facilities in industrial zones proved divisive Tuesday, causing a narrow majority of the Spokane Valley City Council to send it back to the planning commission for further review.
Spokane Valley resident Tiara Raciot filed a code text amendment to allow specialized training/learning schools in light industrial zones; a conditional use permit would be required in heavy industrial zones. Raciot said she needs a building for her gymnastics school with a tall enough ceiling height and no support columns, and she’s not found one elsewhere in town. City staff recommended not approving the amendment, but five of the seven planning commissioners voted to recommend approval.
“We had a difficult time with this one,” said Community Development Director John Hohman. Staff makes it a point to be business-friendly, he said, but they also believed the request violated the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
The bottom line is that someone is willing to rent a vacant building, said Councilman Arne Woodard. “I see this as an issue of property rights,” he said. “Why are we not allowing them to lease it? We’re trying to fill these buildings.”
An idea to only allow such uses in light industrial areas with a conditional use permit didn’t gain any traction. “I think that has some merit to it,” said Mayor Tom Towey. That way a hearing examiner could examine each request, he said. “It wouldn’t be a blanket zoning change for the entire city of Spokane Valley.”
Getting a conditional use permit takes too long, Woodard said. “I don’t like the conditional use idea,” he said. “It’s an expensive process.”
Councilman Dean Grafos said he also did not like the idea of requiring a conditional use permit. “You’re chasing business to other municipalities,” he said.
Councilman Ben Wick said he didn’t want to impede the city’s role as an industrial hub. “I kind of want to protect our manufacturing areas,” he said.
Property owners should be able to decide what to do with their buildings, Woodard said. “I think we’re playing too much nanny state here,” he said. “They know what’s best for them.”
Councilman Rod Higgins pointed out that the council recently approved an amendment to allow an indoor soccer facility to locate in the Industrial Park.
Hohman said the indoor soccer facility is no longer operating. “That particular business was viable for about three months,” he said.
Higgins, Woodard and Grafos were in favor of moving the proposed amendment forward to a first reading; they were overruled by Towey, Wick, Chuck Hafner and Gary Schimmels.
In other business, the council decided not to pursue special zoning for manufactured home parks. Members of the Association of Manufactured Home Owners had requested that the council create new regulations that would protect them from mobile home parks being converted to other uses. The city recently sent a survey to manufactured home parks in Spokane Valley asking their opinion on the subject. The property owners objected to having their land use options limited.
Woodard pointed out that current density in manufactured home parks is limited to seven units per acre. “Perhaps we need to look at that before we do something else,” he said.
Grafos said that if property owners could increase the density on their property, it would make it more worthwhile to keep their property as a manufactured home park. “I think that’s a much better solution than trying to zone them out of business,” he said.
Hafner said that while the renters have rights, so do the property owners. “They all signed contracts knowing full well what might happen,” he said.
The council directed city staff to look at the density issue and prepare a text amendment.