Time for a do-over.
The Spokane Valley City Council decided to toss a ruling by the appointed Planning Commission on Tuesday. However, the governing body made it clear there is a problem with the existing law concerning property designated a “nonconforming use” under the city code.
After some legislative gymnastics, the council directed city staff to come back with a new ordinance that would allow a displaced business owner to expand the nonconforming zone status onto adjacent property that he doesn’t own.
The only caveat, reiterated by Council Member Rose Dempsey, it must be “done quickly” as the land owner must be off his existing property by the end of October.
A proposed code text amendment had been filed by Dwight Hume of Land Use Planning Services to challenge the city’s existing rule that states the owner of a nonconforming business can only expand onto adjoining land if he or she owns that parcel at the time the “nonconforming” status had been handed down. Hume wished to take away that provision that required “ownership.”
“Ownership shouldn’t be in there,” Hume told the council, adding that the community development director would still have some discretion on granting the nonconforming status if there was no detrimental effect on neighborhoods or traffic.
Last month, however, the Planning Commission agreed with city staff that such an amendment would be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and is not something that is done in other areas. It voted to reject the proposed amendment and forwarded that suggestion onto the City Council for final approval Tuesday.
“The purpose of the nonconforming use it to allow an existing use,” said City Attorney Mike Connelly, “but not to allow it to expand…this is about as broad of a brush as I’ve seen in property ordinances.”
Hume requested the amendment on behalf of Gary Hite, who must move his Hite Crane & Rigging business by the end of October from Broadway and Fancher due to the need from the city of Spokane to access the property as part of the new construction of a new Fancher Road bridge over the railroad tracks as part of the Bridging the Valley project.
Hite is hoping to relocate to 17515 E. Appleway, where an existing business, Consolidated Pipe, already exists as a nonconforming use. Access to adjacent property, with the owner’s permission, is necessary for access, Hite said.
“If a business can’t continue to operate and expand, there’s no revenue base (for the city),” he said. “I figure I’m just caught up in a technicality.”
An amendment, however, would allow for the expansion of nonconforming uses to be “unfettered,” Connelly said, thus muting the purpose of the underlying zone in that area.
Council members, however, keyed on a suggestion by Council Member Dean Grafos that a new ordinance could be constructed to allow for nonconforming uses to expand onto adjacent property in commercial and industrial zones, but not in residential areas where multifamily apartments could overwhelm single-family homes.
Council Member Rose Dempsey agreed with that idea, but said the city needs to move fast to accommodate Hite, who must move large equipment.
“The wheels of government move slowly,” she said.
Connelly said a new ordinance could be brought before the council within the next couple of weeks.