When there’s a Pring or a Magnuson in attendance, it’s a safe bet that any discussion on Sprague Avenue development will be peppered with some strong opinions.
And even though the meeting was short, Aug. 19’s focus on the “city center” zone classification in the area encompassing University City drew some sharp critique from some of the principal property owners in that area.
The city center zoning – a key component of the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan – has raised eyebrows among existing property owners for much of the same reasons as other zone classifications: strict architectural guidelines, reduced setbacks that moves parking off the street, restricted uses, etc. However, a stipulation that a north-south “core street” west of University Road that would split the former mall site would have to be developed before other areas within the center would be permitted elicited the most criticism.
“We want something that this economy can deal with,” said Dwight Hume, owner of a land-use planning business who has been critical of SARP in the past. “There’s 34 uses that are no longer allowed.”
Scott Kuhta, senior planner for the city, said that the idea was to concentrate new growth on the core street to spur an “active, urban place” that other development would want to build around.
However, some things have changed since the previous City Council approved the plan. The Spokane County Library District, in the wake of a failed construction bond, has abandoned plans to build a new library at the U-City location and city officials are no longer attempting to secure property for a future City Hall.
Finally, a sputtering economy has created an environment where it is tough – even under the best conditions – for new projects to move forward.
“It was kind of dreaming,” Jim Manguson, co-owner of University City, said of the city’s plans. “It’s something that was 20 years out, and kind of utopia-goal oriented. Right now, it’s impossible to sell property and it’s impossible to do anything with property in this environment.”
Jack Pring, who owns property along Sprague Avenue, was complimentary of the current City Council’s efforts to deal with some of the more restrictive elements of the land-use plan and would like to see the zoning be more in tune with what the city had in 2004.
“We’ve got to make it easier to do business,” Pring said. “We’ve got to make it easier for customers to do business with us.”
Karla Kaley, a property manager, said that efforts to mirror California-style development in Spokane Valley are contrary to the attitude and makeup of its community members.
“A city center is essential,” she said. “Without a city center, you don’t have an identity.”
She added, however, that city planners need to keep weather in mind, as well.
“Snow removal is a really big thing,” Kaley said. “Don’t forget where we are.”
City staff will report to City Council on Sept. 14, which then may make suggestions to the Planning Commission for immediate changes or recommend updates to the city’s comprehensive plan. Public comments will be accepted through Sept. 7. For more information, visit www.spokanevalley.org.