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Schmautz completing conversion of former Johnston warehouse into offices

Developer Steven Schmautz is completing the renovation of the former Johnston Printing warehouse into commercial offices at 121 W. Pacific Ave. in Spokane.

The conversion will leave about 8,600 square feet of office space. Three tenants have signed leases: The Union, a yoga salon run by Tyler Lafferty and Nick Murto, principals at Seven 2 design firm; Copeland Architecture; and Helvetika, the new name for the former agency Anderson Mraz Design.

The three tenants are expected to move in sometime in December.

The building has one 2,100-square-foot office not yet leased, said Vic Overholser of SDS Realty Inc., the leasing agent.

Rendering courtesy of SDS Realty, of Spokane.

A mass transit, double-decker bus in Spokane?

At last week’s Planning, Community and Economic Development committee meeting, Spokane city planning director Scott Chesney was discussing the Larry H. Miller empire and its request to temporarily shut down some streets while the car dealer did some re-arrangement.

Not exciting stuff.

Then, off-handedly, Chesney told committee members that it was important to keep the Jefferson Street viaduct open during this work because it was the only railroad bridge tall enough to accommodate the double-decker bus that the Spokane Transit Authority was thinking about bringing into its fleet.

Wait. What?

With visions of those huge, red buses that ply the streets of London dancing through our heads, we called up STA.

“They were looking at it for the EWU route because ridership has skyrocketed,” said Molly Myers, STA’s spokeswoman. “It was just an idea to be able to double capacity. That is a suggestion that came up during our planning process during brainstorming. It never got to that level of specificity.”

So we let it lie. Until Monday, when we saw this.

How would Sonnelands’ South Hill property look if it was fully developed?

Earlier on Wednesday we ran a map with an item on the proposed amendment request submitted on behalf of the family of John and Holly Sonneland. That earlier printed map is the existing land use for the 30 acres the Sonnelands own on Spokane's South Hill.

Here is another map from the city that shows the proposed, requested uses for the same property. The large purple block would be centers and corridors designated for mixed use. The darker yellow area to the left and below, bordered with purple lines, would remain residential, but it would change in nature.

As our other SR news story (ran on May 22) reported, the Sonnelands say they didn't submit the full 30-acre rezone request. They say a local developer, Steve Schmautz, went forward for a full rezone, rather than what the Sonnelands wanted, a smaller, less-than-eight-acre rezone of their property.

This map shows that if the full project moved forward, one request to the city would change the residential parcels, currently zoned single-family residential, to R15-30, allowing for up to 30 units per acre.

The original documents accompanying the request did note that the project, if developed, would not build apartments at that density, but closer to 10 units per acre. The Sonnelands, again saying that type of development is several years off, if at all, say they don't want a high-density residential development.

Want more answers on the Sonneland property rezone request? Here’s a link

This is one of those tales that never quite answers all the questions it raises. The Sonneland family, a fixture for decades on Spokane's South Hill, has more than 30 acres that will eventually go through some development. The first part of the plan is the existing Quail Run commercial cluster on 29th Avenue near Southeast Boulevard.

Today's story summarizes the confusion and attempted fix after a developer submitted a request to amend the Spokane Comprehensive Plan and allow mixed-use development on many of the still-undeveloped acres the Sonnelands have.

The property iincludes the last significant green belt of natural land sitting atop Spokane's South Hill.

The upshot: while the city is still reviewing the request for rezoning all 30 acres, the family now says they're not ready to move forward with that size of project. Instead, with the help of a local developer, they're more focused on making a zone change happeon on the northeasternmost 6 acres or so of the property.

To grab more information about the project, on the city's planning department site, go here. Scroll down to the specific link for the Sonneland project.

Council supports Verner’s choice for planning director despite past receipt controversy

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 7-0 to appoint Scott Chesney as its new planning director.

The former director of planning and development for El Mirage, Ariz. hasn't even worked a day in his new job and he's already been the focus of a Doug Clark column.

While serving as the planning and community development director for Surprise, Ariz., Chesney admitted violating city policy by using city credit cards to buy alcohol for himself and staff, and failed to provide itemized receipts for reimbursement, the Arizona Republic reported after Chesney resigned in November 2007. He told the paper that he bought drinks with a city credit card to reward staff for hard work.

No one on the council mentioned the issue before the vote, but City Councilman Jon Snyder criticized the hiring process because he said the City Plan Commission was not consulted.

Verner’s choice for planning director disclosed receipt controversy

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said Monday that the man she picked to be the city's new planning director was candid about problems that contributed to his resignation from a planning position in Arizona.

Spokane officials announced in a news release last week that Verner chose Scott Chesney, the former director of planning and development for El Mirage, Ariz., to be the next planning director. He was the top choice of an advisory committee helping to pick the new planning director, the news release said. He previously served as the planning and community development director in Surprise, Ariz.

While there, Chesney admitted violating city policy by using city credit cards to buy alcohol for himself and staff, and failed to provide itemized receipts for reimbursement, the Arizona Republic reported after Chesney resigned in November 2007. He reimbursed the city for the improper purchases, the newspaper reported.

“He was the first to disclose it,” Verner said when asked if Spokane officials were aware of the controversy.

She said her staff made extra efforts to make sure members of the selection committee and City Council were aware of the issue.

Verner's nomination will be forwarded to the City Council for confirmation. If approved, his starting yearly salary will be $98,554.