Hundreds of people gathered in a North Spokane church Wednesday evening to vent their frustration with the increased traffic associated with a proposed new apartment complex on Indian Trail Road.
A traffic engineer hired by developer Harley Douglass gave a presentation on current traffic counts and what might happen if the apartments are built. Members of the audience asked him repeatedly to justify the numbers in his report and often sounded upset with his conclusions. They complained that there is often heavy congestion on Indian Trail, the only road into the neighborhood, in the morning and evening.
The proposed complex would be located on 50 acres just west of Indian Trail Road north of Barnes Road. The site is currently approved for 286 homes, but Douglass is asking that the land’s zoning be changed to allow apartments. He originally proposed 1,500 apartments, but recently lowered the number to 750 apartments.
“We just heard concerns about density and the developer lowered that number,” said traffic engineer Bill White.
Some people expressed concern that the numbers would go back up from 750 if the zone change is approved.
“We have no guarantee that he’s not going to plunk down four to five story buildings” and put in 1,500 units, one woman said.
City planning director Lisa Key said that once the 750-unit proposal has been submitted, it can’t be changed without redoing the whole process. The developer would have to sign a developer’s agreement limiting the number to 750, she said.
Key said the city is only deciding on whether to allow the zoning change, not whether the apartments should be approved.
“It is not a development proposal,” she said. “You’re not approving a site plan or a design.”
Current traffic counts are 13,600 a day at Indian Trail and Barnes and 17,300 a day at Indian Trail and Weile Avenue, White said. Despite heavy southbound traffic in the morning and northbound traffic in the evening that causes congestion, the intersections are still performing well, White said.
The apartment complex would add an estimated 4,650 weekday trips, White said. The level of service at the intersections will degrade over the next few years as new developments go in but will still be acceptable, White said.
The crowd grew upset during a question and answer period, causing organizers to call for civility several times.
One woman thanked representatives from the city, including councilwoman Candace Mumm, for attending the meeting.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “I hope they hear us. We are really frustrated.”
White said he is recommending that Indian Trail be re-striped between Barnes and Excel to have two southbound lanes, a center turn lane and one northbound lane. The road will need to be widened to five lanes in the future, White said, and the developer is willing to pay $363,000 in transportation impact fees upfront to help pay for the widening.
The widening project is in the city’s six year plan but it is not funded. It is projected to cost $3 million.
Public comment is being taken on the proposed zone change until July 11 and can be sent to email@example.com. The city’s planning commission will hold a workshop on the proposal on June 8, but no public comment will be taken. Hearings are tentatively scheduled for August and September and will allow public comment. The city council will likely decide whether or not to approve the zone change as in November.