A discussion last week on the current status of the “gateway zone” west of Argonne quickly became another chance for critics and affected business owners to ratchet up more complaints against the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan.
About 50 showed up at the meeting, and for nearly two hours on May 20 questions and talk centered on the area of Sprague predominately populated by car dealerships. City staff members, acting on orders by the Spokane Valley City Council, initiated the meeting to give an overview of the existing rules of the “gateway” zones in that area and how specific details in the zone can affect future development or building requirements.
Lori Barlow, an associate planner for the city, led the discussion, which often was dominated by a series of “what if” scenarios. Specifically, many wanted to know if they could continue their current “nonconforming” uses – and only about 6 percent are not in compliance with the current code, Barlow said – in the event of a catastrophe, such as a fire, or if the business closes for whatever reason.
The upshot, Barlow said, is “yes” unless a structure sits vacant for 24 months or if the building is 80 percent or more damaged. That stipulation is actually in the city’s municipal code, she said, not incorporated into the SARP. It is also something the City Council could change at any time.
“It doesn’t mean you can’t rebuild the building,” Barlow said.
Kathy McClung, the city’s community development director, said she was “hearing that 80 percent is a consensus” of concern to the property owners, and that it would be something that would be brought to the council for review.
That discussion segued into what affect the new zoning requirements have on property values. Barlow said the city’s research showed that there shouldn’t be “any impact,” but that property owners should check with their insurance companies to be certain on a case-by-case basis.
Barlow added she would welcome any documented research that showed that property values actually dropped because of the new zoning.
“Hearsay is tough to deal with,” she said. “We need something to hang your hat on.”
Concerns about signage and setback requirements were also aired, and representatives from car dealerships reminded planners that auto manufacturers often have specific sign requirements for each and every make. As the largest contributor to the city’s sales tax base, care should be taken to allow their businesses to thrive.
“When people talk about Auto Row, it’s a group working together for a better Spokane Valley,” said Bonnie Quinn, who represents the car dealerships in that area. “This isn’t big business, it’s 500 jobs for people who contribute to the local economy.
City staff members said they were taking plenty of notes, and a report will be made to the City Council on June 8.