The applause was tepid for such a filled room, but the Spokane Valley City Council wasted little time in quashing the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan in a 5-1 vote Tuesday night.
The vote was the second – and final – reading of the ordinance, which updates the city’s comprehensive land-use plan and kills SARP permanently. Spokane Valley’s zoning regulations along the commercial corridor will now revert to those in existence prior to October 2009.
A handful of those in the packed-room attendance spoke in favor of the move – the only support of the controversial SARP came from Council Member Bill Gothmann, who cast the only no vote – and there were few brief victory speeches from those on the council who were elected on the “Positive Change” platform in 2009.
“You put us on this council for this night,” said Council Member Brenda Grassel. “Spokane Valley is open for business.”
The revitalization plan had a long, tough birth after dozens of meetings, scores of public comments and plenty of contention leading up to its adoption in June 2009 amidst a renewed effort to disincorporate Spokane Valley. After that attempt failed, candidates of the Positive Change bloc were swept into office in November – scant weeks after SARP became law on Oct. 15, 2009.
One of the council members who initially voted against SARP – and later aligned himself with Positive Change – said he was relieved to finally put the matter to rest on Tuesday.
“I think this has gone on for a long time,” said Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels. “We can go back to work with a smile and smile at our customers.”
Newest Council Member Arne Woodard said he continues “to hear the same thing – the (SARP) regulations are too strict.” Woodard replaced Council Member Rose Dempsey, who resigned from the council in January after she was outvoted (along with Gothmann) for preserving the city center concept. Dempsey had initially opposed SARP along with Schimmels.
SARP’s goal – which departed former Council Member Steve Taylor once described as “truly fabulous” – was to spur, through restrictive zoning, commercial activity around a proposed city center in the area around Sprague Avenue and University Road. Building, setback and parking requirements also were overhauled – many opponents said too strictly – in the hopes of sparking redevelopment along Sprague.
But Dean Grafos, one of the most outspoken opponents of SARP on the council, said the new zoning regulations were having the opposite effect, scaring away potential developers along the Sprague-Appleway corridor to other, more welcoming commercial areas in Spokane or North Idaho.
“All of us compete for these dollars,” Grafos said. “How do we do that with all of these regulations in SARP?”
That argument was bolstered by a pair who spoke prior to the vote. William Berry, who owns property along Sprague, said he had a development agreement for an automotive glass repair shop ready to be signed contingent on SARP’s removal. And John McNamara, who represents the national CarMax used auto chain, said, “If SARP is repealed, then we can look at coming here.”
There were also kudos lauded on the council members. Mac Whiteford commended the council on its “courageous action.” And Dwight Hume called the council members fighting “municipal marines.”
Chuck Hafner, a former education administrator who is seeking the spot on the City Council that was left vacant after Bob McCaslin passed away in March, said he started the Positive Change movement to bring city government more in line with the values of Spokane Valley’s citizens.
“I’m not for continuing SARP,” he said.
Gothmann – who will not seek re-election in the fall – compared SARP to a scientific breakthrough akin to transistors replacing vacuum tubes.
“Is the plan perfect? Not by a long shot,” Gothmann said, but added it could have been modified as necessary. “Was it too far reaching? In hindsight, I’d say yes. But change is coming. It’s inevitable.”