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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Manufactured-home park proposed for auto-salvage site along U.S. 195

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 9, 2020

The former AA Auto Used Cars property, at left, at 3504 S. Inland Empire Way, is being considered for a new manufactured-home development, which is in the hands of the city’s Design Review Board.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
The former AA Auto Used Cars property, at left, at 3504 S. Inland Empire Way, is being considered for a new manufactured-home development, which is in the hands of the city’s Design Review Board. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

What’s now the AA Auto Salvage Yard will be cleaned up and transformed into a 157-site manufactured-home park for people older than 55, if William Nascimento has his way.

But Nascimento acknowledges he’ll have to overcome “a lot of challenges” to make that plan a reality in Latah Valley, where efforts to meet demand for new housing have clashed with concerns about the area’s capacity to handle the expected growth.

Foremost among those challenges, Nascimento said this week, is a Washington State Department of Transportation moratorium on development along U.S. Highway 195.

In a letter sent to city officials in February, WSDOT Eastern Region Administrator Mike Gribner asked the city to stop approving new developments until it deals with the “crisis in management of safety within the corridor.” If the city didn’t comply, Gribner wrote, WSDOT would make changes to the highway that would increase safety but “make it more difficult for area residents to reach destinations within the City of Spokane.”

The approach appears to have worked.

Since Gribner’s letter was delivered, progress toward constructing a long list of projects that proposed to build some 700 homes has stalled.

“That’s an issue that’s obviously looming,” Nascimento said of the moratorium request. “We’re part of that.”

Some neighbors, too, have pushed back on development and called for improvements to area roads.

Kai Huschke, chair of the Latah/Hangman Neighborhood Council, said it has been “hard to track” all the proposed development in the area and that the Latah Glen plan would only add to the “tremendous stress” on area roads.

“I think the city has not been very diligent about really looking at the realities of this neighborhood when it comes to development,” Huschke said. “The past decisions of the city, to allow the development that it has, has left this neighborhood in a really bad place in a lot of ways.”

While Nascimento said his project’s focus on an older segment of the market means it won’t “generate as much traffic as much as a normal project,” since residents will be less likely to commute to work and school, he acknowledged the effect on traffic will still be felt.

To assess the size of that effect, WSDOT has asked the city to request from the developer a “traffic analysis that analyzes the development impacts” at various locations along Highway 195, according to Char Kay, the transportation department’s region planning and strategic community partnerships director.

Kay also noted that WSDOT requested that the developer improve the currently unpaved frontage road that accesses the property and that the department will require the developer to apply for an access permit application to use the highway.

In an effort to address the traffic-safety concerns, Nascimento said he has joined with other private developers looking to build in the area who have proposed funding the infrastructure improvements that would appease WSDOT and allow them to move forward.

Doing so, developers say, would allow them to meet the outsize demand for housing that has driven up prices and depleted the city’s inventory of homes. Nascimento said his project, which is multiple steps away from approval, would help meet the need for a sector of the housing market that’s especially acute: affordable housing.

Residents of Latah Glen, as the development will be named, would be able to buy a prefabricated home for between $120,000 and $150,000, he said, although they would also have to lease the lot where it is located.People will be able to buy homes directly from the development or bring their own home, so long as it meets certain aesthetic guidelines.

The 40-acre development is designed to include a clubhouse for residents, a pedestrian pathway system designed to create a community feel and a link to the adjacent Fish Lake Trail.

The Latah Glen site is located near another manufacture-home development and an RV park just west of Highway 195, along what is now an unpaved section of Inland Empire Way that does not connect to the local street network on the east side of the highway. The site is also bounded to the west by Marshall Road and to the south by a BNSF rail line.

The Design Review Board will discuss the project at Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting, which can be streamed online. The board is also accepting written comments from the public about the proposal. They can be submitted to dgunderson@spokanecity.org.

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