It was a compromise that seemed to frustrate nearly everyone and totally please nobody.
But at the end of two hours of haggling Tuesday night, in a 4-3 vote, the Spokane Valley City Council approved a developer’s agreement that would allow for a high-end apartment complex to be built at Conklin Road and Broadway Avenue.
The only remaining hurdle is the final approval at a second reading of a zone change that would redesignate the parcel high density from its existing medium-density residential. That is expected to come at the council’s next meeting on July 31 at City Hall.
Council Members Brenda Grassel, Chuck Hafner and Ben Wick ultimately voted against the developer’s agreement. Concerns were raised that the agreement – worked out between city staffers and property owner Greg Arger and his representatives – did not adequately address neighbors’ concerns of mitigating impacts to their mostly single-family neighborhood.
The biggest issue raised was that the agreement doesn’t create an adequate buffer between homes and living spaces that could be incorporated into the complex’s final design. What had initially been perceived as a 40-foot buffer surrounding the complex between fencing and apartments ultimately turned out to be only 5 feet, the same as a side area of a single-family home. The only stipulation will be that structures within the buffer will be limited to 35 feet high and won’t be allowed decks or balconies.
It had been thought that any adjacent structures would only be carports, garages or perhaps a recreation center – not apartments or townhouses.
“We don’t want people living five feet from our property,” said Katherine Potter.
Another issue with neighbors was making sure the main entrance to and from the complex is from busy Broadway Avenue and not a secondary, smaller entrance on Conklin that would be needed for fire access.
Mike Basinger, senior city planner of the project, said signage and other focal points would point drivers to the Broadway entrance, but that is all that really can be done.
“We can’t guarantee it,” he said.
Some residents near the 10-acre site said they were beginning to warm to the project, which could have as many as 240 units, that will be located just south of the sprawling shopping center anchored by Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. But fears of apartment dwellers peering from windows into back yards and roads clogged by parked cars were not dissipated over the course of Tuesday’s discussion.
“What’s to stop them from parking on Sonora (Road)?” asked Jerry Combs. “There’s plenty of parking there.”
Potter said she is also concerned about the lack of room for school buses picking up children on Conklin.
Dennis Crapo, owner of Diamond Rock Construction, told council members the city is inconsistent when it sets up developer’s agreement. Similar projects, such as one built at Shelley Lake, have more stringent buffers.
“It’s not a good way to do business,” Crapo said.
Both Mayor Tom Towey and Grassel – who voted on opposite ends of the issue – agreed that they did not favor developer’s agreements in general and would prefer the city codes stand on their own. However, the proximity of the proposed apartments to single-family homes necessitated some type of compromise, Grassel said.
“If we don’t pass this, it could be a free-for-all,” she said.
Wick said he was in favor of city staffers sitting down with the developers to iron details and language of the agreement out for one more week, but other council members said it was time to act.
“We could pick this apart all night,” Towey said. “I think this is a good fit for the project. I think it addresses the concerns of the staff and the neighbors.”