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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Valley City Council passes emergency moratorium on some residential development over code loophole

The Spokane Valley City Council has put a moratorium on some residential development for a year after receiving complaints that developers have taken advantage of a loophole in recently passed regulations to apply to build multifamily housing in areas where only single family homes are allowed.

Deputy City Attorney Erik Lamb and Deputy City Manager John Hohman acknowledged last week that the move was unusual.

“Moratoriums are extraordinary measures, so there are a lot of safeguards in place,” Lamb said during a presentation to the council Tuesday.

The moratorium allows applications that have already been submitted to go forward and other types of development, such as standard subdivisions and single family housing, can also move forward, but new applications under the designation “planned residential development” will be rejected.

The emergency moratorium went into effect as soon as the council voted on Tuesday with no notice and little discussion between council members.

There will be a Jan. 5 public hearing on the moratorium.

The conflict revolves around several zoning changes approved in 2016 and 2020 that were meant to allow more flexible housing options, and protect single-family neighborhoods.

According to city code, Planned Residential Developments are designed to promote density and more flexible housing, and they are currently allowed in single family residential areas. Hohman said that the conflict had created some issues because increased density sometimes does not match the character of single-family neighborhoods.

“We do believe this is an area where the city does need to review this part of the code,” he said.

Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick said the changes to the city code in the last four years may have had unintentional consequences, and the city needs to review its codes to resolve any conflicts.

“We didn’t realize at the time, but we evidently created a loophole,” Wick said. “This moratorium allows us to stop the loophole, and discuss if we want the loophole there.”

Spokane Valley City Councilman Arne Woodard said the moratorium was technically in place for a year, but he anticipates it will be removed within three to six months, as soon as the Planning Commission has a chance to review the conflict and come up with a plan of action that the council can act on.

“It lets us step back, take a breath, look at the regulations and then go from there,” he said.

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