Residents have appealed a recent decision by the city of Spokane that could open the door for more big-box stores on the South Hill.
The group appeared before Hearing Examiner Greg Smith on Tuesday, challenging the process used to evaluate whether changing the zoning of a 12- and a 15-acre parcel on Regal Street, south of Palouse Highway, would adversely affect the traffic flow and environment.
They want the city to throw out its finding that the zoning change won’t have any significant negative impacts. If the ruling stands, the proposed amendments will move closer to a City Council vote. Smith said he will decide if their case is valid within the next two weeks.
Dave Black, of Black Development, is hoping to develop the property, which is zoned for residential use but would become a district center, allowing for the construction of big-box stores.
Kerry Brooks, a resident who has a doctorate in urban planning, said the city’s planning department violated city regulations because it based its finding on a State Environmental Policy Act checklist that was vague and flawed, he said.
Virginia Patano, who lives in the area and appealed the city’s decision on behalf of the Southgate Neighborhood Council, said Regal Street is already horrific when it comes to traffic problems.
“None of us are anti-development. We just want it done legally and responsibly with our input,” Patano said after the meeting.
Black, who didn’t speak at the hearing, said there has been a shortage of commercially zoned property on the South Hill for years. At the same time, a lot of retailers are interested in the area because it has a higher average income than some parts of Spokane.
Black said he has worked with the city for nearly three years on the zoning changes and has done everything that was required.
The zoning change is one of several proposed in the area, which includes both city and county land.
Residents also argued that the determination should be tossed out because interested stakeholders, such as Spokane Public Schools, weren’t notified early enough to comment on the zoning change and that the city lacked an agreement with the developer to lessen potential impacts, including increased traffic.
City Planning Director Leroy Eadie said every project planned for the rezoned sites will require a SEPA checklist, and at that time, specific mitigations can be decided. Some traffic impacts could be addressed by the city’s six-year street plan, he said. Other road deficiencies could be improved through impact fees.
Black wasn’t sure exactly what he’ll build, but didn’t rule out a big-box store, saying there’s a difference between building a Target and building a Wal-Mart.
“I’m not a Wal-Mart developer,” he said.