Barring any unexpected last-minute saves, expect the SARP to be DOA next Tuesday night.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan was teed up for its inevitable demise as the Spokane Valley City Council voted in a first reading 4-1 (Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels was not present) to remove SARP from the city’s comprehensive plan. A second and final reading is set for April 26.
Council Member Bill Gothmann voted no, saying it is irresponsible for the city to move forward with no replacement plan for improving the economic conditions on the beleaguered east-west corridor.
“I looked on my desk, there was no (new) plan for the revitalizing Sprague,” Gothmann said. “To say that there is a plan is blatantly false.”
The city Planning Commission voted to recommend that the City Council keep SARP. In their findings, the majority of the commission stated that the Sprague corridor would continue to deteriorate without a plan and that more citizen input was needed.
The majority of the council has countered that SARP – with its restrictions on uses in certain zones and specific development requirements – strangles potential growth instead of enhancing it.
“There’s a certain contingent of the council that might not be in agreement with these findings,” said Mike Connelly, the former Spokane Valley city attorney who has been advising the council and staff during the comprehensive plan update process. “Not all the members of the Planning Commission were in agreement.”
A half-dozen in attendance at the meeting also couldn’t find much to say in support of SARP. Dwight Hume, owner of a land-use planning business and representative of several Sprague Avenue property owners, said it was time for the plan, which was based on “new urbanism,” to go.
“Do not be fooled by the rhetoric,” he said.
Steven Neill – who is an applicant for the vacant council seat of the late Bob McCaslin – said it was time to move forward with helping business grow “without government interference.”
Arne Woodard, the newest council member appointed to fill Rose Dempsey’s position after she resigned in January, said that he has talked to several Sprague Avenue business owners who are glad that the council is removing the plan.
“I have yet to hear any of them say, ‘By gosh, keep that SARP,’” he said.
Dean Grafos, who has said business owners have been limbo over developing on Sprague for years due to the plan, said he is cheered by the news that CarMax, a nationwide used car dealership chain, is looking to build after SARP’s removal and add potentially 120 jobs to the “economic engine of this city.”
CarMax had been a possible tenant near University City during an “emergency rezone” action passed by the council last year to allow used car dealerships in that area. The company is now targeting land near Dishman Dodge in the AutoRow area of Sprague.
Mayor Tom Towey said that SARP was propped up and supported under “false assumptions” such as that the city would eventually own the Appleway right-of-way east of University Road and that two-way traffic on Sprague Avenue would spark development between University and Argonne roads.
“Nobody has actually looked at the options,” he said. “We have to look at the options, sit down with the business community and see what options fit us best.”