The Vistas at Belleaire, a proposed 226-lot development in south Spokane Valley, is moving forward despite concerns from residents about increased traffic in the neighborhood.
Developer Summit Properties Inc., on behalf of landowner Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan, filed an application with the city last year for the six-phase subdivision containing single-family homes on more than 81 acres.
Construction of Phase 1 is anticipated to begin in 2018, with each following phase constructed over five years.
Spokane Valley Senior Planner Lori Barlow presented an overview of the development to the Spokane Valley City Council at a meeting Tuesday evening.
“This is a little unique in the sense that we don’t usually bring land use actions to you, but under the circumstances, this has been a fairly controversial project,” she said to council members. “And, I know there’s been a significant amount of public comment, so we wanted to provide an update on the status.”
The proposed development is bounded by Sullivan Road to the west, Barker Road to the east and 22nd Avenue to the south. An urban growth area on Spokane County owned land also lies directly south of the proposed project.
The area of the city known as Ridgemont Estates was developed in the mid-1970s and considered outskirts of county development. In 2013, Spokane County expanded its urban growth area east and south of Ridgemont Estates. With the economic surge in the region over the past few years, the land is steadily being developed.
The city received a considerable amount of public comments from adjacent property owners in the Morningside and Ridgemont neighborhoods.
“Their main concern is how traffic would affect them,” said Ray Wright, senior traffic engineer for Spokane Valley. “Their concerns were that all the traffic would likely be directed through those two neighborhoods and that was in part because there was no east-west connecting roads to the project.”
Residents also felt public notice of the development from city staff was inadequate.
Municipal code requires the city to notify residents living within 400 feet about any proposed project and there’s a section of code allowing them to expand that area to 800 feet.
“In this case, due to the fact that there was a lot of interest in the project from the get-go and there’s large parties that are adjacent to the project, we expanded the noticing within 800 feet of the project site,” Barlow said.
Wright said city staff worked with the county to identify measures to reduce traffic, which is anticipated to be more than 2,130 vehicle trips per day,
“I think really where the rub is that the traffic volumes would go up,” he said. “People living on those streets aren’t happy about that.”
Residents suggested radar speed signs, stop-control intersections, speed bumps, sidewalks and restricted access to the area during a traffic study for the project.
The city intends to construct a pedestrian crossing at Chapman Road and Morningside Heights Drive to improve safety, along with speed signs and truck restrictions on a segment of 22nd Avenue.
The city also implemented a “wildlife travel corridor” west of the project, where development would be prohibited to reduce wildlife impacts.
Spokane Valley City Councilwoman Linda Thompson said she met with citizens in the neighborhood, who expressed concerns with increased traffic and improper notice of the project.
“In this case, traffic went further than 800 feet, so people weren’t seeing the notice, and then I noticed the signs were down,” she said.
Thompson asked city staff if there’s an option to extend notice boundaries beyond 800 feet.
Barlow said any changes to development notice requirements would require a code text amendment.
Spokane Valley Councilman Ben Wick asked staff if there’s a plan in place to determine arterial streets in south Spokane Valley, because it seems there aren’t many in the Morningside neighborhood.
Wright said the urban growth boundary was pushed out by the county and 22nd Avenue became a collector road as more development was constructed in the area.
It’s expected the growth boundary will expand even further south and east in the future, he said.
“Maybe as we look at this and how things grow out there, we should start to have a conversation of where we expect the collector roads or arterial roads to go, to start planning for that,” Wick said.
Spokane Valley’s hearing examiner is expected to make an approval decision on the project around Aug. 20.
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