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Foes say zoning proposal bad fit

Proponents say Valley needs apartments to keep up with growth

Opposition to a proposed land-use change that would enable large apartment buildings in a Spokane Valley neighborhood that primarily consists of single-family homes, appears to be growing.

Dozens urged the City Council on Tuesday to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation and dump the proposal, which would redesignate a 5-acre parcel at Barker and the old Sprague Avenue from low-density to high-density residential.

“Opposing it does not stop (the developer) from developing the site,” said Heather Graham, who lives nearby. “They just must develop it based on the existing zoning.”

No decision is expected until June, though council members are scheduled to discuss the issue next week and could decide at that point if any of this year’s proposed comprehensive plan amendments should be dropped from the list that moves to final consideration. “If a majority votes against the proposal, it dies for the year,” Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard advised the crowd.

Whipple Consulting Engineers is seeking the land-use change along Barker and disputes assertions that the neighborhood can be described as rural. A portion of the parcel adjoins a vacant lot that was designated high-density residential in the mid-1990s before Spokane Valley became a city.

Todd Whipple said Spokane Valley needs more high-density residential projects to keep up with the city’s own population growth estimates. “There just isn’t enough development ground available,” Whipple said, adding that land-use and zoning changes are the only options available to resolve that.

Opponents, however, said many people have livestock and horse pastures and argued that even the parcel that was switched to high-density back in the 1990s has cows on it. “I know Mr. Whipple says it isn’t rural, but it is,” said Lee Nelson.

Among those joining the residents in opposing the proposal are people upset about overcrowding at Central Valley schools, one of whom told council members she doesn’t live in the area but that her kids already are in portables and the school district keeps busing in more from neighborhoods where large apartment complexes keep getting built.

In addition to school crowding, residents worry their property values will plummet as traffic worsens and more people move into an area that has few sidewalks, scant street lights and a lack of other urban infrastructure needed to accommodate larger populations and the increase in crime they fear would follow.

Keith Adkins questioned the developer’s assertion that there’s just a 4 percent vacancy rate among apartment complexes and suggested that the critical housing shortage portrayed by project proponents is exaggerated.

“You can go to any apartment complex in the Spokane Valley or Liberty Lake area and they all have signs out in front of them saying leases are available,” he said. “Let them build houses, everyone’s in favor of that … but not these apartment complexes.”