Neighbors of property located at 15818 E. Fourth Ave. are up in arms because they believe the property owner is violating a developer’s agreement negotiated with the city of Spokane Valley.
The owner, Dennis Crapo of Diamond Rock Construction, is proposing building 41 townhomes on the 3.77-acre parcel south of Fourth Avenue and just west of a portion of the Shelley Lake development. The developer’s agreement was signed in late 2009 and called for limits on multifamily housing on the eastern 120 feet of the property.
The agreement stated that the number of multifamily units in that area would be limited to 21, building height would be limited to 35 feet, buildings should be set back 40 feet from the eastern property line and 10 feet of landscaping would be required along the eastern border.
During a public hearing held before Spokane Valley Hearing Examiner Mike Dempsey last week, a representative of the property owner said those limits don’t apply since townhomes are considered single-family residences, not multifamily housing. “We meet the requirements of the code and of the developer’s agreement,” said Todd Whipple of Whipple Consulting Engineers.
Whipple did say that the design of the townhomes is essentially the same as the design of the apartments originally planned for the site. “You’re basically taking the same design and making them lots,” Dempsey said.
It was neighbors who objected to the original plan for apartments and pushed for the agreement. Robert Harris, president of the Shelley Lake Homeowners Association, said they didn’t know of the loophole that allows townhomes. “We were not aware multifamily housing did not include townhomes,” he said. “We were deliberately misled. This was well planned.”
The proposed site plan has one home on a corner lot of the new development only 5 feet away from another home, he said. “They’re too close,” he said. “They overlook our backyards.” Many residents have talked about selling their homes “because they don’t want to live that way,” he said.
Harris said he was no longer willing to work with Crapo. “I’m not prepared to cooperate with him anymore,” he said. Resident Bill Martin said the developer’s agreement didn’t give neighbors everything they wanted, but they thought the 40-foot setback would make it palatable. “We felt at least there would be some privacy,” he said. “We feel it was a bait and switch. We feel this was totally unfair and very deceptive.”
“I can tell you I don’t think there was a bait and switch,” Whipple said. “We decided to go with townhomes.”
Harris also complained that if the townhouses don’t sell, there will be nothing to stop Crapo from converting them to rentals.
Dempsey is scheduled to release his opinion on whether to grant approval for the preliminary plat of the site within two weeks.