At next Tuesday’s study session, the Spokane Valley City Council will take some formative action on two nagging issues: the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan and the search for a new city manager.
Last week, the council was presented with an aggressive, all-summer schedule for dealing with SARP. The first step will be an analysis of the current economic conditions next Tuesday, with a tentatively set culmination of the “community boulevard” zoning in late September.
If that schedule is met, according to Kathy McClung, community development director, then changes to the controversial SARP plan could be made in 2011 as part of the annual updating of the city’s comprehensive plan. Those revisions, under state law, can only be made once a year.
“I hope that I gathered what it is you wanted,” McClung asked the council on April 19. The majority of the new council was elected last November under a platform of “Positive Change,” which targeted SARP as one of its campaign talking points. Mayor Tom Towey and Council Members Dean Grafos, Gary Schimmels, Brenda Grassel and Bob McCaslin have all said the plan, which radically overhauled zoning in order to encourage commercial development at a proposed “city center” at University and Sprague, needs to be scrutinized.
But to give the written notification to affected property owners that council members desire, the review of each zone or component must be taken one step at a time, according to McClung, to allow staff time to prepare reports and presentations.
“It’s a fairly aggressive schedule,” McClung said.
Some of the recommendations made by the council will be sent on to the Planning Commission for code changes that will be reviewed by the council for final approval.
Under the plan, the council will review:
- May 4, economic analysis
- May 11, nonconforming uses and sites plus general layout of the plan (“Where to find things.”)
- May 18, “gateway commercial” and “gateway avenue” zones
- June 15, “city center” zone
- July 13, mid-course corrections
- July 20, “neighborhood centers” zone
- Aug. 17, “mixed use avenue” zone
- Sept. 28, “community boulevard” zone
Council Member Rose Dempsey was curious on how this schedule will affect customer service and staff time. McClung said the only real affect is that it will delay the city’s ability to work on its pedestrian/bike plan and the shoreline master program. Information derived from recent developer forums, too, will take longer to implement.
The council also decided to review the job description of the city manager at the May 4 meeting. The council asked for – and accepted – the resignation of David Mercier on Jan. 5 and Mike Jackson has been the acting city manager ever since.
The council has been reluctant to move forward with contracting with a national search firm to look for a new city manager, instead wishing to start with a more local search. McCaslin, in particular, suggested looking first in Spokane County.
That idea didn’t sit well with Dempsey.
“I hope this will be a full council decision,” she said.
When McCaslin asked her what she preferred, Dempsey said she believes a statewide search would be better.
“I’d like to look in Spokane County,” McCaslin replied.
John Whitehead, city human resources director, said the council needs to set up some parameters for the job description and also agree on a pay scale.
“Identify what you want in a city manager,” Whitehead said.
Grassel said that any pay should not only be considered against what other city managers in similar-sized cities make, but also compared to the private sector.
Council Member Bill Gothmann said, however, that government cannot offer the bonuses or other incentives that companies in the business world can.
“We can’t offer perks,” he said.