Two of Spokane’s most powerful players battled it out Monday before the City Council over how a chunk of land in the city’s northeast corner should be developed.
Harlan Douglass - one of the county’s largest individual landowners - wants to build apartments on 46 acres at the northwest corner of Lincoln and Crestline.
Representatives of Kaiser Aluminum Corp. - one of the county’s largest private employers - disagree, saying the land should keep the industrial designation given it by the city three years ago. They say apartments clash with their nearby plant.
So far, the city has sided with Kaiser. The Plan Commission voted 7-1 in February to deny the request.
On Monday, the council delayed a decision until at least next week.
Douglass owns 209 acres in the northeast area, including the disputed acreage, where he plans to build a mixed-use development called Grayhawk. The proposal calls for apartments, manufactured homes, a planned unit development, neighborhood parks and an industrial complex.
While the balance of the acreage is appropriately zoned for Douglass’ proposal, the plan commissioners rejected his request to change the 46 acres from industrial uses to low-density residential.
They said such a change preempted work currently being done by Spokane Horizons, a group of citizens rewriting the city’s comprehensive land-use plan.
Mixed-use developments play heavily in the group’s vision for Spokane, and approving Douglass’ plan now might “negatively impact” the standards set for those projects, said city Planning Director Charlie Dotson.
The Plan Commission did leave open the possibility of changing the land-use in the future, Dotson said.
Bob Dellwo, the commission’s lone dissenter, told the council Monday that the change should be made now. “This being zoned industrial is absolutely ridiculous … The developer shouldn’t have to wait one-two-three years to have his application approved.”
Mike Murphy, Douglass’ attorney, said his client’s proposal received a warm reception from city planners in 1995. “Lo and behold, a year and a half later, the staff bounces the project.”
Murphy displayed map after map showing how residential housing has creeped north toward Kaiser since 1950.
“Common sense dictates this site ought to be residential,” he said. “Kaiser’s idea of transitional zoning is a no-man’s zone for a mile and a half around the plant. This is not possible unless they want to buy the property …
“Through threat and innuendo, they suggest that because they are the great and powerful Oz, they should be listened to.”
Kaiser countered with maps showing its closest plant is just 700 yards from Douglass’ 46 acres. At that facility, carbon is shaken from railroad cars for use in their aluminum reduction plant to the north. It’s a noisy process.
“Make no mistake, it is a disturbing operation,” said Stuart Deysenroth, a land-use planner working for Kaiser.
Changing the neighboring land to a residential use threatens Kaiser’s future in Spokane because it invites complaints about the plant’s activities, said Susan Ashe, the company’s public relations official. “One of the single-most important issues (for Kaiser) is incompatible development on our borders.”
Two nearby residents spoke in favor of Douglass’ proposal, saying they feared industrial development of the property could harm their quiet neighborhood.
Janelle Fallan, of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce, sided with Kaiser, saying that keeping old businesses happy is just as important as trying to recruit new businesses to the area.
“My cat is the one that understands, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” she said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEXT? The council may vote next week on Douglass’ request.
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