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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Barker Road rezone request draws ire

The Spokane Valley Planning Commission meeting went into overtime last week because dozens of people had shown up to protest the rezoning of land located on the north east corner of Barker Road and East Sprague Avenue.

One person spoke in favor of that rezoning and more than 30 against it.

Several opponents said that the infrastructure around the intersection can’t handle the influx of traffic an apartment complex will bring to the area.

Neighbors said they can’t get out of their driveways as it is, and many complained that they never see a snowplow.

“I don’t understand why we are here again talking about the same lot,” said George Kovacs, of Spokane Valley. “Two years ago everyone agreed it was a bad idea and here we are again.”

Viking Homes, which has several developments in Spokane County just south of this area, owns the lot.

Frank Roberts, who lives on Barker Road, said that Viking should just build in Idaho because that’s where the company is located.

Several mentioned that schools in the area are already at or very near capacity, even with planned expansions and that the lack of lights and sidewalks along Barker makes for a dangerous walk to school.

“It feels abusive, and it feels disrespectful that we have to be here again,” said Kelani Bonner, who lives in the neighborhood. “Multi-family housing does not match the character of the neighborhood.”

Testimony lasted until around 8:25 p.m. when the commission took a short break and then decided to deliberate on this particular rezoning request.

Commissioner Heather Graham said it’s important to her that the public doesn’t feel like there are shady dealings going on.

“We are here to listen to the community,” Graham said, adding that she is opposed to the blanket rezoning of the area.

Commissioner James Johnson said he’s very concerned about the intersection at Barker Road and Sprague Avenue.

Several residents testified that traffic control is needed at the intersection during peak Sunday church hours, because the three churches there generate too much traffic.

Commissioner Kevin Anderson said he didn’t have “the foggiest idea” why the area has come up for rezoning again because residents were so opposed to it.

The discussion diverged to why Spokane Valley doesn’t charge impact fees – monies that developers have to pay to support the development of infrastructure to match their projects.

“With impact fees, 80 percent of the problems we are talking about here today would go away,” said commissioner Tim Kelley.

Kelley also said he found it offensive that those testifying referred to apartment dwellers as somehow bad people.

“I’m not going to sit here and listen to that,” he said.

At one point, commissioners appeared to be leaning toward zoning the lot medium-density housing, but was reminded by Spokane Valley planner Mike Basinger that the medium-density designation does not exist in the proposed Draft Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations.

As the meeting rolled past 9 p.m., the commission reached consensus to not rezone the property.

The planning commission will work its way through Spokane Valley’s Draft Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations and review and comment on the proposed changes. The commission then makes a recommendation to the Spokane Valley City Council, which the council may or may not follow.

It’s possible this particular lot may be brought up for debate again. If the council agrees with the commission that rezoning it from single family housing to multi-family housing this time around, then the owner of the land may ask for a rezoning again next year.

The planning commission next meets Thursday evening at 6 p.m.

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