The vote wasn’t even close.
But at least two of the votes – and the reasons behind them – came from unexpected sources.
With one SARP supporter voting along with those who think the majority of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan should be junked, the Spokane Valley City Council agreed 5-1 Tuesday night to move forward with an incremental process of revision that will take until next year to be fully realized – if then.
Council Member Rose Dempsey, the lone vote of dissent, said that picking away at SARP in an effort to change the city’s comprehensive plan in 2011 would “put a blanket of paralysis” over development along Sprague Avenue for at least the next year.
“I don’t think that’s good for our community and I don’t think we should do it,” she said.
Mike Connelly, city attorney, had been tasked with finding a legally defensible method of dismantling the SARP by members of the council elected on the “Positive Change” ticket last fall. Those members ousted incumbents up for election in November who had supported the subarea plan and its goals of redefining Sprague as an arterial of boarded-up stores and strip malls to one where commercial uses would be centered at major intersections. Setbacks would also be reduced, parking would be banished to the rear of businesses and landscaping improved in the more “walkable” center core.
Dempsey – along with Council Member Gary Schimmels – had voted against approval of the Sprague Avenue subarea plan when it came before the previous City Council last summer. In a column to the Valley News Herald at that time, she wrote, “When the plan was revealed, it took my breath away. This wasn’t the beginning of a good thing. This was the end of result of hundreds of thousands of dollars spent program our beloved Spokane Valley into a Stepford community.”
She added, that her aversion to the plan was one of the “primary reasons I ran for council in the first place.”
The other about-face came from Council Member Bill Gothmann, who over four years ago was tasked as a member of the Planning Commission to apply consultants’ suggestions for creating an urban core and a city center to be developed at University City through restrictive zoning along much of the remainder of the Sprague corridor.
While Gothmann still supports the SARP – and many of the arguments raised against it are development-code issues -- he said Tuesday the time has come to look at Appleway Boulevard. The extension of Appleway is a key component of SARP and the comprehensive plan, but as the right-of-way east of University Road is still owned by the county, it doesn’t look like anything will be happening soon.
“Appleway is a comp plan issue,” Gothmann said. “So I will vote for this.”
Council Member Dean Grafos, who thanked Gothmann for this affirmation, had initially wanted all the zoning rules of the SARP suspended immediately. But Connelly said the legal safe course would be to change the city’s comprehensive plan, which can only be done once a year by law. Those changes can’t come about next until 2011; however there may be some uses within zones that can be tweaked now that do not contradict the comp plan.
By consensus, the council agreed to go through the subarea plan zone by zone, soliciting public comment and comments by property owners within those zones.
The council will then be able to vote on changes incrementally, but all must be studied first by Connelly to see what the legal ramifications could be.
“It’s not black and white,” Connelly said. “The comprehensive plan, in
Washington, is a lot like the Bible. You can support any argument you can if you go through it and find the right words.”
The council did get an earful from some who are not enamored by the idea of putting SARP on the chopping block.
Mike King, a Sprague Avenue businessman, told the council that SARP “is not a perfect plan, but it is a plan.”
“Let’s continue amend the plan now and in the future,” he said. “Don’t throw the baby out with the wash. For goodness sake, have a plan.”
While he didn’t specifically use the KFC name, Dick Behm, who also has a business and owns property on Sprague, said the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant across the street from him recently closed because it doesn’t appear that Sprague will be reverted back to a two-way in that area anytime soon. Reversing the couplet to two-way roads between Argonne and University is a key component of the SARP.
“What you’re doing is stopping development and stopping progress,” Behm said.
Sue Scott, who also has a business on Sprague, said SARP does the exact opposite and the “steal rezone” of how it was initiated was only put in place to develop a city center. However, with the failing of a bond vote that would have put a new library at University City and the cessation of talks for land acquisition for a new City Hall, that purpose is moot.
“What is the practical point of keeping this alive?” she asked.