Mixed-use zone responses turned out to be a mixed bag last week.
With only about 30 or so in attendance at the June 22 morning meeting – and only a handful of public comments recorded – there may be few specifics for the Spokane Valley City Council to work with when it tackles that particular zone classification under the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan next month.
Still, it did give SARP detractors one more chance to vent their frustrations, while others chose to shoot arrows at the existing one-way configuration of Sprague Avenue.
The meeting was in sharp contrast to last month’s morning forum on the “gateway” zones in the Auto Row area, as car dealers, other shop owners and concerned citizens alike had plenty of commentary for improvements.
The council has requested city staff go through the SARP zone by zone and contact affected property owners so they may make suggestions for improvements. Much like before, a good percentage of the discussion centered on “nonconforming uses” within the zone, as several speakers wondered if they would have difficulty securing loans or getting insurance if they operate a full-service restaurant in the mixed-use areas on Sprague.
That use, along with financial institutions like banks, is currently not allowed.
Scott Kuhta, senior planner with the city, said there are several factors that would apply. However, according to Dick Behm, who owns nonconforming commercial space along Sprague, those who have “legal” nonconforming uses should have little trouble working with banks or insurance agents.
“That eliminates a lot of these objections,” Behm, who added his family has owned property on Sprague for four generations, said.
Behm added that while he has “no problems with these plans as long as there is an ability to adjust to individual situations.” His issue has always been the one-way west configuration of Sprague, where business has fallen 30 to 40 percent at a restaurant on his property.
“It’s never came back,” he said.
Mac Whiteford, a commercial Realtor with Kiemle & Hagood, said he and many other developers are having problems with the SARP in general. He said that a pizza restaurant and bank in the area of Progress and Sprague never would have been able to open under the new rules.
“Planners don’t understand market forces,” he said, adding that opening up those areas to other uses – such as high-density residential – is unrealistic. “Sprague Avenue is a retail street.”
The meeting closed with comments from Kathi Shirley, who has the Spinal and Sports Care Clinic on Sprague Avenue, who also vented her frustrations on the SARP – specifically, the new architectural design requirements.
“The problem is you are putting an undue burden on property owners,” she said. “Why should we pay for the city’s plan?”
The City Council will study the public comments and make recommendations to staff at its July 6 meeting. Some of those suggestions may be simple text amendments that may be forwarded immediately to the city Planning Commission for study. Others may have to wait until the annual update of the city’s comprehensive plan, which won’t be able to take place until 2011.