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Monday, May 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Revitalization reduction plan fails

Dempsey-Schimmels idea loses 5-2

An effort to cut the proposed Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan in half failed Tuesday in a 5-2 vote of the Spokane Valley City Council.

Councilwoman Rose Dempsey, with support from Councilman Gary Schimmels, moved to implement the plan only between the Sprague exit of Interstate 90 and University Road.

“I feel the plan is just too much,” Dempsey said. “I would like to see a slower start to the revitalization. … Let it grow out in a more natural way.”

She called the plan a “Potemkin village,” referring to fake villages Catherine the Great’s minister Grigori Potemkin is said to have built to impress the 18th century Russian empress when she toured her territory.

Acknowledging she was “pushing water uphill,” Dempsey said city officials should have held out for a plan that reflects “our way of life rather than trying to turn us into another California suburb.”

Dempsey said she suggested sawing the plan off at University Road because businesses west of there tend to be older and more in need of revitalization, and because Appleway Boulevard ends at University.

Schimmels said he saw a “roadblock” at University that would stifle development east of there “because you don’t have Appleway.”

The revitalization plan assumes Appleway Boulevard will be extended eastward to Sullivan Road, near the eastern boundary of the plan area. Schimmels said he didn’t think the council could justify imposing zoning regulations based on a road that doesn’t exist.

Until Tuesday, the plan called for “residential boulevard” zoning along the present and future Appleway Boulevard.

Some property owners objected to substituting residential use for commercial and Councilman Bill Gothmann called last week for the zone to be renamed. He noted the zone also would allow office use.

Council members gave a thumbs-up Tuesday to a staff suggestion of “community boulevard.”

Still, Mayor Rich Munson thought it fair to ask whether the city should base its zoning on a road that may not be built.

City officials are embroiled in a dispute with Spokane County commissioners over acquisition of the county-owned right of way for the Appleway extension, and Munson predicted the council will revisit the plan if commissioners haven’t agreed to turn over the right of way by the end of the year.

Shrinking the plan would be like squeezing a balloon, Councilman Dick Denenny said. Compress it in one place and it will bulge in another.

Anyway, Denenny said, “We’ve already had this discussion.”

Councilman Steve Taylor said Dempsey’s proposal would “gut” the plan. He said moving the eastern boundary to University Road would be illogical and “extremely disruptive” because it would cut the proposed “city center neighborhood” and “city center core” zones in half.

A key element of the plan is creation of an urban-style city center anchored by a new city hall.

Gothmann said Sprague Avenue needs revitalization east of University, too.

“We need an areawide plan, not half an areawide plan,” Gothmann said.

Councilwoman Diana Wilhite agreed, but acknowledged concerns about imposing the plan in areas where Appleway Boulevard hasn’t been built.

“I wish Rose had brought this up a little bit earlier,” Wilhite said, noting she presented concerns of her own last week before an ordinance was drafted. “I think we need to move forward.”

Wilhite punctuated her remarks with a “tah-DUM” sound that mocked a line Dempsey sprinkled throughout a guest editorial in Saturday’s Valley Voice section of The Spokesman-Review, in which Dempsey criticized the Sprague-Appleway plan.

“The sound I was trying to come up with was, “DAH-dum, DAH-dum, DAH-dum,” Dempsey said, imitating the menacing score that played in “Jaws” every time the movie’s giant shark was about to eat someone.

She objected that people who don’t like the plan are dismissed as “troublemakers.”

“I really hope I will not be put in the position of being able to say I told you so,” Dempsey said.

“So do we,” Munson responded.

Wilhite and Gothmann said the council has made numerous changes to the plan in response to criticism.

Gothmann read a prepared statement listing a dozen changes, including an about-face last week that removed Jim and Susan Scott’s Lark Inc. property at 205 S. Evergreen Road from the plan. Susan Scott has been one of the most outspoken critics of the plan.

Later Tuesday, several council members expressed willingness to give another leading critic a second bite of the apple.

The council had already pulled in the plan’s eastern boundary from Conklin Road to a point just east of Sullivan Road in response to objections from Dean Grafos, owner of Grafos Investment Inc., and others with property near Conklin Road. Then, on Tuesday, Grafos reiterated a plea for another of his properties to be removed.

Grafos said his property at 15813 E. Sprague Ave., leased to BJ Auto Sales, would become a nonconforming use even though five auto-related businesses just east of BJ’s were removed from the plan when the boundary was shifted from Conklin Road. The BJ Auto site, south of the Fred Meyer store near the corner of Sprague and Sullivan, now abuts the plan’s eastern boundary.

The council agreed to consider Grafos’ request before taking final action on the revitalization plan on June 16.

John Craig may be contacted at

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