The Spokane Valley City Council got quite an earful from Greenacres residents on Tuesday night.
Still, the public hearing on a proposed amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan that would switch a designation from low-density residential to high density on a parcel on the northeast corner of Sprague and Barker clocked in at just under two hours – far less than the four-hour marathon that the Planning Commission endured earlier this year.
However, those living in the neighborhood once again lined up to make comments concerning increased traffic, the possibility of higher crime, overcrowded schools, loss of a rural lifestyle and dropping property values if the zoning is changed. The applicants – Whipple Construction Engineers, on the behalf of owners Wendall and Teresa Olson – are hoping the higher density will allow for the construction on a 100-unit apartment complex.
Todd Whipple, who represents the property owners, said the project is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and should be allowed to move forward, despite the recommendation of the Planning Commission to deny the request.
“I would challenge the rural character of this neighborhood,” Whipple said. “That’s erroneous.”
City planners agree and support the zone change, based largely on a single parcel immediately to the north that has a high-density residential zone designation.
Those who spoke against the change were incredulous.
“We are on property adjacent to where this would go in,” said Danny Smith. “It’s 15 feet from my bedroom window. It’s just not to place for.”
Scott Jutte, who lives on Sprague Avenue near the proposed site, said that Whipple and the Olsons are the only ones who will benefit from the zone change while those who already own single-family homes will be crowded out.
“Think of the children who will live there,” Jutte said. “Where are they going to play?”
Clyde Smith said he counted 945 cars at Barker and Sprague one morning during rush hour.
“Any traffic studies that haven’t been done in the past few months are null and void,” added Peter Higgins. “We have a totally different traffic flow.”
Kathy Scott said the affected school district, Central Valley, is “bursting at the seams.”
Kristen Agnostinelli, who manages similar apartment complexes as the one proposed, said many of the residents’ fears regarding increased crime or renters not placing value in their accommodations are misplaced.
“The apartments we’ve managed have never had those problems,” she said, adding that there are several background checks, ranging from sex-offender data bases to social media activity. “We have a strict approval process.”
Agnostinelli added that many of the apartment residents stay much longer than a year.
“Over 85 percent decide to stay,” she said. “Many choose to rent because they can’t do home maintenance or afford a down payment.”
The City Council can make changes to its state-mandated comprehensive plan once a year. The other issue that has generated controversy, to a lesser extent, is property owned by Spokane County that would be adjacent to its soon-to-be-open animal shelter in the former Harley-Davidson dealership at Trent and Bradley.
Some nearby residents are concerned the vacant parcel to the north, which could be rezoned from low-density residential to mixed use, would be intrusive to nearby single homes.
Nancy Hill, director of Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, said the area would be fenced and used for dog walking and exercise. All of the animals would be vaccinated, she added, so there would be no risk to neighborhood pets.
“No dogs would be unattended or left off leashes,” Hill said. “SCRAPS will be a good neighbor – and a quiet neighbor.”
Based on the comments, staff will update the council at its May 13 meeting. Council members will consider whether or not to move forward with any proposed changes at their May 20 meeting. Any motions would come up before the council on May 27 and final approval on June 10.