The agenda was short. The same couldn’t be said for the sign-up sheet for public comment.
After two and a half hours of mostly negative testimony Tuesday night, the Spokane Valley City Council decided it needed more time – and more information – before it could decide on a zone change that would allow a possible 240-unit apartment complex near Broadway and Conklin.
The decision came after some roller-coaster procedural maneuvering by council members, some kvetching over public notice despite newspaper articles and several iterations of the “not in my back yard” argument.
No date was set for the council to take up the topic of CPA-05-12, a requested comprehensive-plan amendment that would change the area west of Conklin and south of Broadway – and directly across the street from a busy shopping center that contains a Wal-Mart and Lowe’s – from medium- to high-density residential.
All other comp-plan amendments before the council – which can only be done once a year by municipalities as mandated by the Growth Management Act – were passed without much comment.
The one characterized “odd duck” proposal, however, fired up neighbors as it would situate developer-described “luxury” apartments in a 10-6-acre swatch of land that could house 400 behind single-family homes that dot Broadway Avenue and Conklin Road.
The council has been reluctant to move forward with a developer’s agreement that would be worked out between city staff, the property owners and neighbors, as negotiations can be lengthy, city rules undermined and the project delayed.
If the council approves the zone change as requested, a traffic study on impacted nearby roads will be done to see if improvements or “calming” features need to be put into place.
Greg Arger, property owner, said he is a longtime Valley resident who said he would “do his best for the neighbors and the safety of the community.”
Delbert Liligeren was among several who spoke against the project, saying it was necessary to keep the zoning as it is as there was already heavy truck traffic on Conklin and on Moore Road to the west.
“We moved here because it was a quiet place to be,” said Vicki Endicott, who lives on Conklin Road near the proposed development. “I don’t want 400 people in my back yard.”
“I’m hoping that you as a council will consider all aspects of this,” added Monti Daley. “Would you want this in your back yard?”
Several said they had not been notified by city staff that there would be a council meeting on the subject. While mailed notices were sent to property owners when the Planning Commission held a public hearing earlier this year, advertising for the May 22 second reading of the comp plan amendments was the standard city procedure of running a legal notice in the Spokane Valley News Herald and posting the council agenda on the city Web site. There were also articles in at least two newspapers.
“It just seems like you’re all are going to sneak this by us,” said Bob Endicott.
Arger said he has had “real good success working with the city” on past projects and said this one should be no different.
“I don sympathize with the neighbors,” he said. “But there’s a good need for luxury apartments.”
Council Member Brenda Grassel, who voted on May 8 to proceed to the second reading, said she has concerns about the city moving toward a “stack and pack” housing philosophy.
“I’m not opposed to the development per se, I am just concerned because this would be surrounded by single-family homes,” she said. “That makes this an odd duck.”
Council Member Dean Grafos said “the neighborhood has changed” with the addition of Wal-Mart and other shopping destinations.
“People want a walkable area,” he said. “I’m going to vote for this project.”
That’s when Arne Woodard – the only council member on May 8 who voted against moving to a second reading – made a motion to separate CPA-05-12 from the rest of the comp-plan amendment requests. That opened up a can of procedural worms and another round of public comment.
“I guess I don’t agree with that,” said Council Member Chuck Hafner. “What’s that going to solve?”
Woodard said he wanted to get the other issues out of the way as there was no controversy. After a unanimous vote to approve the rest, the focus returned to the Arger property.
“I do hope he’ll work with the neighbors and whatnot,” Woodard said, but added he wasn’t sure how he’d vote on the project. “I’m just conflicted, that’s all…I want to make sure we do the right thing here.”
As the meeting approached the three-hour mark, Hafner said he needed more information before he could decide anything.
“I’m sitting here more confused than I was two weeks ago,” he said.
City staffers will bring more data, including what would comprise the traffic study, at a future date.