Supporting new housing and commercial development: 8.14.17 and 8.21.17 Council Meetings Recap

Can it be August 22nd already? This summer has really been flying by. And the Council has been getting some very important work done to support targeted multi-family housing and neighborhood commercial activity in our City.

Last night at our August 21st Council Meeting, Council had three different ordinances to consider related to land use and development. First, we voted 7-0 in favor of updating our Multi-family Tax Exemption (MFTE) areas and making changes to the rules for receiving the 12 year exemption for including some affordable housing (now, you can receive the higher incentive for providing housing to people at 115% of the Area Medium Income). Council added the Division Street and Market St. corridors. This program has worked well in creating market-rate housing in areas where the City supports greater density. I am hopeful it will also now incorporate more affordable housing in these areas through this updated incentive program.

Second, Council voted 7-0 to adopt a threshold docketing process for deciding when comprehensive plan amendment proposals will be added to the City’s annual comp plan amendment work program or periodic update. This is a convoluted way of saying the City will now have an “early review” of proposals to amend our Comp Plan instead of putting every proposal through the year-long process, which is sometimes not the appropriate use of time on the part of developers or the City. Many other cities in WA State that plan under the Growth Management Act have iterations of an early review. I want to thank CM Candace Mumm for her work in bringing this forward for consideration and I look forward to testing out this new process this Fall!

Finally, Council voted 7-0 in favor of allowing existing neighborhood commercial structures to be used for specific commercial purposes even if they are located in a residential zone. Click here for more details and a map of the 90 or so properties that are covered under this ordinance. Years ago, these structures, many of which were corner grocery stores or small operations within residential areas were “downzoned.” Some remain in commercial use today, but many were vacated and then became empty buildings or were turned into residences, sometimes unsuccessfully. CP Stuckart has been working hard with small developers and property owners to allow these buildings to be used again (think Rockwood Bakery or Batch Bakery as examples of neighborhood retail in a residential area). After a lot of study and input from citizens, I think the Council has come to a good decision on this matter, including requiring more public input and a hearing examiner decision for buildings on residential streets that fit this criteria to ensure compatability with the neighborhood. I look forward to seeing how these buildings become reused and activated in our neighborhoods.

On a minor note, I have been working with Council and Administration on a joint Strategic Plan for the City. Out of this process, we have decided to update our Council Committee structure to be more aligned with the Strategic Plan. We voted 7-0 to create 4 new committees with new chairs and vice chairs that will lead discussions in the 4 strategic areas. We will kick off the new committee structure in October.

Monday, August 14th we held a fairly short Council meeting, but had a lot of folks show up for open forum on a variety of topics, including concerns about homelessness as well as issues with cleanliness and safety under I-90. Blessings Under the Bridge and the City continue to discuss options for their food and clothing distribution and where these activities might be most appropriate for the community. I’m happy to report that after last week’s meeting, the City, Lewis and Clark HS principal and board members and executive leadership of Blessings Under the Bridge have met and progress is being made on ways to assist those in need and keep the area clean and safe under I-90. More to come soon!

Council did approve appointing pro and con committees and the preparation of fiscal impact statements concerning the two citizens initiatives that are on the ballot this November (6-0) and approved the authorization of a grant contract between the Spokane Airport and the U.S. Dept of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration for airport improvements and a Master Plan for Felts Field. I’m excited about the opportunity this Master Plan brings to future development in the Chief Garry Neighborhood around Felts Field!