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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Developers attack zoning reforms

Commercial developers took aim Monday at portions of a sweeping reform of the city’s zoning code, questioning whether Spokane needs to require apartments in neighborhood business areas.

The Spokane City Council is considering a proposal that seeks to create trendy new “urban villages” where people can shop, live, dine and work without having to rely so much on their automobiles.

But two prominent developers testified that adding apartments to these mixed-use centers will only take away from a lack of commercially zoned land in Spokane.

Council members decided to take at least two more weeks to consider the changes before any possible vote, and to continue accepting public comment at City Hall through Monday.

The current proposal seeks to simplify regulations on commercial and office zones outside of the central business district as well as four neighborhood centers zoned separately in 2003. A new zoning code for residential areas is in the works, but not yet ready for City Council action.

The commercial and office proposal would rezone 19 existing commercial areas around the city from their neighborhood business uses to a new neighborhood mixed-use zone, in which residences would have to be added to projects involving more than 10,000 square feet of retail space.

Developer Harlan Douglass said he would be forced to add 40 apartments to his 5-acre property at Nine Mile Road and North Royal Drive in order to build a 40,000-square-foot supermarket there. He said he is concerned about conflicts over parking between shoppers and residents as well as having enough space on the lot to accommodate both.

Attorney Margaret Arpin said the owner of a similar property on North Indian Trail Road faces the same problem. She suggested the council consider a compromise: including previously built residences as credit toward the mixed-use requirement. Or, she said, the council could simply dump the residential requirement.

Arpin and Douglass questioned the wisdom of requiring more windows on ground floors of retail projects. Arpin also said reduced parking may become a problem at some businesses.

Cliff Cameron, a developer who works with Douglass, said the city should consider rezoning industrial land east of Nevada Street and north of Francis Avenue to commercial use. He said similar rezoning near Northpointe Shopping Center has proven successful.

Dr. Marcus DeWood, owner of property west of the Spokane County Courthouse, asked the council to increase the height limit for the office zone in which his property sits. He said he wants to build a 150-foot office tower with parking for 500 cars just to the west of the Courthouse, but the proposed changes would continue an existing 35-foot height limit in an area that is also residential.

Joe Harwood, a co-owner of The Gables on Broadway, 1302 W. Broadway, said he was watching the council meeting on Cable Channel 5 at home when he heard DeWood make the request. He left home and went to City Hall where he testified against allowing the 150-foot height adjacent to the historic apartments.

“I just want to voice a concern about that,” he said.

Property owners from the Browne’s Addition Neighborhood asked the council to include retail uses in the office zone near the city’s new Fire Station No. 4 at Maple and Riverside. Patricia Sampson said she is seeking a historic designation for the windmill building at Second and Maple and believes it would be a great location for a small shop.

Denny Christenson, an architect at 1614 W. Riverside, said residents in Browne’s Addition support allowing parts of the neighborhood to have mix of uses.

Sue Millersmith, whose family owns commercial property at Francis and Nevada, asked the council to consider expanding the commercial zone to two adjacent residences, which her family also owns.

However, the zoning code proposal under consideration does not call for expanding existing zones, but rather, swapping 19 current designations for six new ones.

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