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Spokane City Council delays vote on Beacon Hill development

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 22, 2021

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

A proposed Spokane subdivision more than 15 years in the making would have to provide land for public transit under a new agreement under consideration.

The Spokane City Council again held off Monday on granting the developer of a planned housing complex on Beacon Hill additional time to finalize its plans, but it appeared to put finishing touches on a deal that will be voted on next week.

At issue was a preliminary development agreement between the city and the developer of the Vistas at Beacon Hill, which calls for a subdivision of 35 lots and more than 200 units of multifamily housing in northeast Spokane east of Havana Street and North of Longfellow Avenue.

Earlier this month, the council delayed a decision on whether or not to grant a five-year extension of the agreement, which dates back to 2005 and is set to expire on Dec. 14.

There appears to be agreement on a path forward after some late amendments to the agreement on Monday, but the council voted to defer the vote for a week to allow for a final legal review.

Heading into Monday’s expected vote, council members questioned whether the proposal meets modern development standards given that it is nearly two decades old.

“It meets today’s standards and then some,” developer Ryan Buth, who purchased the property last year, assured the council on Monday night.

The council wrestled with on-the-fly amendments on Monday.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear proposed that the city require the developer to set aside land that could be used as a Park and Ride by the Spokane Transit Authority. She decried the plan for placing multifamily housing “on the border of our city, a mile from a bus stop.”

“We’re forcing them, essentially, to buy a car or have a car,” Kinnear said.

Cathcart said he spoke with the developer Monday morning, and that Buth is interested in using nearby land owned by Avista for a Park and Ride. Cathcart warned, however, that requiring the developer to set aside its own land would “decimate” the multifamily portion.

The updated agreement would allow the developer to use either its own property or that of a third party to establish a Park and Ride with space for 50 cars, whose drivers would access public transit from that point.

Kinnear also proposed extending the agreement only for three years instead of five, to which the developer was amenable. The developer also agreed to build public streets that meet modern standards, unlike the private streets initially envisioned.

Much of Monday’s discussion in a committee meeting Monday centered on who was at fault for the last-minute push to extend the development agreement.

Buth said that while it may appear the request for an extension came shortly before the deadline, “we’ve put months of time into this.”

Buth explained that the largest impediment to progress in the development was providing water infrastructure to support the housing project, but said that issue has been resolved.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm noted that the property changed hands more than a year ago, and the developer has had all that time to finalize its development proposal. The late request for an extension on the development agreement, she argued, has put the council in an “awkward position.”

“Ultimately, it’s really not our fault,” Mumm said.

Councilman Michael Cathcart said the new owner has been attempting to extend the agreement for a year.

“We, as a city, put them in the position of making this at the last second.” Cathcart said.

Cathcart said the developer is ready to finalize the proposal and start building.

“We just need to extend it and we’ll get housing, it’s a real simple formula,” Cathcart said.

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