The annual window of opportunity to make changes to Spokane Valley’s comprehensive plan has yielded once again a fair share of controversy.
The City Council heard a report on the proposed changes at its Tuesday work session. While there was no public testimony taken, there were many in attendance that were on hand to learn more about a proposed amendment in the area of Barker and Sprague that would change the designation from low-density residential to high density on a parcel on the northeast corner of the intersection.
The applicants – Whipple Consulting Engineers, on behalf of owners Wendall and Teresa Olson -- are hoping that the higher-density would allow for a wider range of housing types to meet future growth and would like to build a 100-unit apartment complex.
Those living in single-family homes nearby, however, are worried about increased traffic, overcrowded schools and the further eroding of the rural character of the area. Many packed the Planning Commission’s split public hearing on Feb. 27 and March 13 for four hours of testimony to protest any changes.
Despite city planners’ conclusion to allow the zone change, based largely on a single parcel immediately to the north that is zone high-density residential, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the council deny the proposal.
Lori Barlow, the city’s senior planner, told the council that the Central Valley School District has not commented on the overcrowding issue.
“They did not respond,” she said. “We never seem to get a definitive answer…but we do know that the schools are overcrowded.”
The other hot-button issue is on the opposite end of the city, where the Spokane County Animal Protection Service is seeking a rezone of low-density residential to corridor mixed-use to accommodate future expansion adjacent to its soon-to-be open new shelter at the old Harley-Davidson dealership at Trent and Bradley. The vacant parcel to the north could be used as a dog-walking area for SCRAPS, but not under the existing zoning.
Some neighbors nearby are worried that if the parcel is developed it could cause an increase in traffic and would remove a buffer between the animals housed at SCRAPS and residents’ pets.
The Planning Commission was deadlocked 3-3 on whether to make a recommendation one way or another to the City Council.
Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard suggested that SCRAPS build an 8-foot block wall to shield nearby homes from shelter animals. City legal staff said they would investigate the possibility of imposing such a condition.
“I’m just trying to come up with a practical solution,” Woodard said.
A public hearing on the comprehensive plan amendments is scheduled to go before the City Council on May 6.