There will be one less oval that needs to be filled in the November general election.
The Spokane Valley City Council agreed by consensus Tuesday to hold off any decisions on reconfiguring the direction of Sprague Avenue – and also Appleway Boulevard – until after its completed a review of land-use along the corridor this fall.
Despite the initial urgings of Council Member Dean Grafos to “settle this once and for all,” money matters and the continued review of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan trumped a push to get the issue on the Nov. 2 ballot. The city would have had to file with the Spokane County Elections Office by Aug. 10 – the next time the council meets – in order to make the general election.
Both Council Member Bill Gothmann and Mayor Tom Towey said any vote by the people should also include a dollar amount – it’s estimated to cost $2.7 million to reconfigure Sprague and Appleway between University and Argonne from one-way to two-way streets, plus repave the roads – that would be borne by property owners in the form of a bond issue.
That’s something that Gothmann said is both unnecessary – road projects are largely funded by grant dollars – and foolhardy on the city’s part in the current down economy.
“The question has already been decided,” Gothmann said, adding that the city intends to go through with the conversion as part of the SARP plan – but only when federal and state grant money becomes available to the city. “To pay for it with a property tax – that’s ridiculous. Come on, get real.”
A two-way configuration to Sprague has been long sought after by business owners, especially east of Argonne, who say their evening drive-by traffic deserted them by taking Appleway or the widened freeway home from work. With vacancies topping 50 percent in much of the area, Dick Behm – who owns property in the area – says the time for debate is over.
“It just makes me sick to look at that street,” he told the council. “Over half of the property is vacant or empty.”
Behm added that if a vote came back to leave the couplet as-is, how would the city fund the extension of Appleway and the conversion of Sprague – and how far would it go? If businesses east of University then started to struggle, “then you’re going to hear a lot of hollering,” he said.
Mike King, a real estate agent and member of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors, said the council was elected for “being business friendly” and that companies are starting to take interest in Sprague again because of the long-term plan to convert the arterial back to two-way.
“As you make these decisions, think about the long-term effects,” he said.
Gothmann – who admitted to being a proponent of the couplet until he learned more about the subject -- also handed out copies of research that showed 84 one-way to two-way road conversions in cities across the nation, largely done to slow down traffic and to make the roadways more attractive to pedestrians and businesses.
“We like to pretend that (the direction) of streets don’t affect land-use,” he said. “That’s flat-out false.”
Grafos, backing off of his earlier suggestion for a vote, said he agrees with the idea of continuing through with the SARP re-evaluation and that the question of Sprague and Appleway’s future direction should be addressed during the council’s annual update of the comprehensive plan this fall and winter.
“I don’t have a problem with going through the zoning process,” he said.