City Council Defers Vote on Annexation Until March 14th

Last night our City Council held the first of two hearings on the proposed Spokane Housing Ventures Annexation. We’ve already written about it a number of times, we’ve discussed the annexation overall and the plans to build a retail center on the former South Regal Lumber Site.

Southgate Neighborhood Council and some neighbors provided written comments and testimony in support of the annexation, but with the condition that the retail and apartment portions be brought into the city as Center and Corridor zones that better meet the current land use designations out in the County and will help implement the City Comprehensive Plan and Southgate Neighborhood Connectivity Plan.

You can watch the hearing as broadcast on City Channel 5 on Vimeo (the annexation hearing starts at about an hour and 8 minutes): https://vimeo.com/154777568

The Council decided not to vote on the land use designations, but rather opted to leave the record open for the next 30 days so citizens can submit more written comments. On Monday, March 14th, the Council will hold a second hearing on the annexation and vote on both the land use and the overall annexation on that day.

I want to thank everyone that submitted comments prior to this hearing, the Council said they had a large number of comments from all over the South Hill and beyond which is why they decided to defer their vote and keep the record open to hear even more feedback. So please, keep talking to your neighbors and encourage them to send comments in to the City Council. You can find all of their email addresses here.

We will keep you aware of any new developments over the next 30 days, I hope we will see even more neighbors down at City Hall on March 14th to tell the Council what they think about this topic.

Take Action: Comment on Zoning for Spokane Housing Ventures Annexation

Comment now on the Council’s upcoming zoning decision for the former Regal Lumber site.

On Monday, February 8th, the Spokane City Council will take a vote to determine the Land Use and Zoning of the properties that are part of the proposed Spokane Housing Ventures Annexation. Most of the parcels already have buildings on them, so their use and design is moot (ex: apartments, radio station, mini-storage), however the 8-acres along Regal Street (the former Regal Lumber site) can either be zoned as auto-oriented General Commercial development, or pedestrian-oriented (auto-accommodating) Center and Corridor. I encourage all of our neighbors to submit comments to the City Council members either via email or phone; or by giving testimony in person at the City Council meeting (6pm, Monday, February 8th at City Hall).

Here are some points to consider while shaping your comments:
1. Voting for the “Alternate” proposal suggested by Planning Department Staff will result in zoning that better supports the vision of the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the Southgate Neighborhood Connectivity Plan for vibrant, walkable neighborhoods.
2. The current zoning in the County is “Mixed-Use” which is the County’s most pedestrian-oriented zoning. In fact, the County Comprehensive Plan explicitly states that it is designed to, “discourage auto-dependent uses and encourage pedestrian orientation with an emphasis on aesthetics and design.”
3. The most pedestrian-oriented zoning in the City is “Center and Corridor” which focuses on creating commercial zones that have a mix of uses and encourages pedestrian-oriented, auto-accommodating designs to provide options for residents of the surrounding neighborhood.
4. Comprehensive Plan Land Use Goal 10.3 says that the City must, “honor the intent of adopted county plans and ordinances for areas proposed to be annexed.” As you can see above, the intent of the Mixed-use zoning is to provide pedestrian-oriented development that makes it easier for people to get to and use the site without a car.
5. The area is surrounded by 12 apartment communities within a quarter mile, including 360 apartments that are part of the proposed annexation. This high-density housing concentration makes this area a prime candidate for pedestrian-oriented development.
6. There is a Comp Plan-designated District Center at 57th and Regal Street, 500 feet from this proposed annexation area. That area just south of the proposed annexation is part of the UGA and will someday be part of the City and Southgate Neighborhood. It makes sense to plan in a coordinated manner and not create an island of General Commercial zoning between two District Centers on Regal Street.
7. Neighbors are concerned about the increased traffic that such high-density, auto-oriented development will bring to Regal Street. A way to mitigate that increased traffic is to design projects that encourage people to use the site without their car. Every person that can walk or bike to the site is one less car on the road contributing to congestion. It’s not about limiting cars, but providing easier alternatives to them.
Thank you in advance for your comments and input. Please get your comments in by Monday afternoon (but the earlier the better). Your involvement will help us continue advancing the mission of the Southgate Neighborhood Council: to improve and preserve the quality of life in the Southgate Neighborhood. If you have any questions, please contact Southgate Neighborhood Council at southgatecouncil@gmail.com.

Update: New Site Plan for Former South Regal Lumber Site

Developer Cyrus Vaughn presented a new site plan for the development on the former South Regal Lumber site (now being called Regal Commons) to the Southgate Neighborhood Council meeting on January 13th. The revised site plan and renderings still show a 30,000 sqft. “grocery” store as the largest building on the site. The new renderings also show a multi-story office building on the NE corner of the site as well as two drive-thru restaurants on the corners along Regal Street.

A KXLY reporter was on hand to produce a story about rumors of a Whole Foods being the grocery tenant, however the developer and his representatives would not reveal the name of the main tenant only referring to them as a “natural grocer.”

Rendering of proposed development looking east from Regal Street towards Brown's Mountain.
Rendering of proposed development looking east from Regal Street towards Brown’s Mountain.

The developers provided a packet of information to attendees with these renderings and an email from the Spokane City Planning Department. Questions from the audience centered mostly on traffic impacts of the project, the lack of pedestrian orientation of the buildings along Regal Street and of the project overall given the 12 apartment communities within a quarter mile of the site. Additional comments were also given about the proposed traffic light at 53rd Ave and how it may be more appropriate to have that located at 55th Avenue since it is a through street running from Palouse Hwy. clear to Crestline St. The developers didn’t have any direct answers to these questions, but instead said these were things that would be studied and considered as the developers went through the SEPA and building permit processes after the annexation. As we mentioned in the previous post on this topic, the zoning given to the site in the annexation process will have ramifications on whether or not this development is more auto or pedestrian oriented.

Another view of the proposed development looking NE.
Another view of the proposed development looking NE.
The revised site plan produced by project architect Nystrom Olson.
The revised site plan produced by project architect Nystrom Olson.

On Friday, the City released the hearing schedule for the annexation proposal that will bring this property into the city. There will be two presentations to the City Council in briefing sessions: Monday, January 25th at 3:30pm in City Council Chambers and Thursday, January 28th at 3:30pm in the Council Briefing Center. The public can attend these events, but not public comments will be taken. Public comment can be given on Monday, February 8th at the City Council Meeting at 6pm in the City Council Chambers when the Council considers a resolution to set the final hearing date.  That final hearing date is tentatively set for Monday, March 14th at the City Council meeting.

If you have thoughts about the development and the proposed zoning of the annexed land, I encourage you to contact your City Council members by phone or email or come down and give testimony and comments at the hearings on February 8th or March 14th.

 

The Future of the Former South Regal Lumber Site

8-acre Retail/Commercial Property Planned on Former South Regal Lumber Site. Developers to present plans to Neighborhood Council on January 13th.

Through the summer the neighborhood could hear the sound of jackhammers and rock crushers processing over 40,000 cubic yards of basalt and bedrock to level the former South Regal Lumber site for future commercial development. South Regal Lumber shut its doors at the end of 2014 and demolition and grading of the 8-acre parcel began in earnest last spring. The developers are now planning to move on to the construction phase of the project starting in 2016.

The Plan

In 2013 Cyrus Vaughn consolidated the ownership of the parcels along Regal Street between 53rd and 55th Ave. and successfully petitioned the County for zoning changes to allow commercial development of the entire 8-acre area. The new proposed development, Regal Commons, has been marketed to potential tenants and businesses for over a year by local broker Sperry Van Ness Cornerstone. Their website shows renderings of the potential development and highlights such features as “12 Apartment communities within a quarter mile” and “Lighted Intersection at 53rd & Regal with 26,000 cars per day.” Potential tenants are listed as grocery, drug or hardware stores; restaurants, coffee shops and offices are also listed.

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A plan view of Regal Commons from SVG cornerstone’s website. Regal Street is on the left. Main tenant is identified as a 25,000 sqft. grocery store.
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Rendering of the proposed Regal Commons site from SVG Cornerstone’s website
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Elevation and detail view renderings of the proposed Regal Commons site as designed by local architects Nystrom-Olson.

Articles in the Journal of Business highlight developer’s interest in Southgate as the next major development region in Spokane. In April 2015 Guy Byrd was quoted by the Journal as saying,”the next major commercial growth area likely will be along the Regal Street corridor on the upper South Hill, especially from 44th Avenue south to 57th Avenue.” He also opined about the future of the KXLY site further north on Regal Street, “The site…is being planned as a lifestyle center that would have up to 100,000 square feet of commercial development with residential components, similar to Kendall Yards, northwest of downtown, or Riverstone, in Coeur d’Alene.”

In June 2015 Byrd was again quoted by the Journal of Business regarding development on South Regal, this time specifically related to specialty grocery stores like Natural Grocers and Whole Foods. From the article: “I think you’ll see these types of grocers on Regal,” he says. “The South Hill has a good demographic for their users. That’s where people with higher socioeconomic income are concentrated.” The article discussed the new Trader Joes and Natural Grocers stores along North Division and discussed the entry of the last major brand in category, Whole Foods, into the Spokane market.

With the economy improving, the eyes of the local commercial and high-density residential developers are falling squarely on our neighborhood. 2016 is shaping up to be a very busy year with KXLY, Regal Commons, and the Palouse Trails Apartments in various stages of development.

Getting in the Zone – Annexation’s Effect on the Development

In March of 2015, the Spokane City Council accepted the request of Spokane Housing Ventures to be annex their three apartment complexes along 55th Ave into the city. The Council, following city policy, expanded the annexation area to include adjacent properties to avoid creating a spot annexation surrounded on three side by County land. In December, the Spokane Plan Commission held its second workshop on the proposed annexation of this property and other adjacent parcels between 53rd and 55th Ave. from Regal Street to Palouse Hwy. Under consideration was the zoning designation of the parcel as it is brought into the city. Currently the property is zoned “Mixed-Use” under the County, the city of Spokane is considering either Community Business or Center and Corridor (CC2) for this property.

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The proposed zoning of the annexed parcels preferred by Southgate Neighborhood Council

Southgate Neighborhood Council provided comments and testimony at the hearing in support of the CC2 designation since it more closely aligns with the intent of the County Mixed-Use zoning and the goals of the Spokane Comprehensive Plan and Southgate Neighborhood Connectivity Plan. As noted by the developer, there are 12 apartment complexes within a quarter mile of this property (including 360 new apartments along 55th Ave. alone). The proximity of such high density housing makes this property a perfect candidate for a pedestrian-oriented mixed-use development that can provide services and amenities to the thousands of residents within walking distance.

Presentation to Southgate Neighborhood Council

The City Council will be considering approval of the annexation in late January/early February, so there are opportunities for Southgate to provide more input to our representatives while they make their decision. The developers of Regal Commons are currently opposed to the Center and Corridor zoning designation, but they are coming to the Southgate Neighborhood Council meeting on Wednesday, January 13th to present their current plans and discuss them with the neighborhood. I strongly encourage area residents to attend the meeting to learn more about the future of this major commercial project and provide their input directly to the developers. A consistent, open dialogue is the best way for all parties to support each other and the smart growth of our neighborhood.

KXLY Development Plans Going Into Motion

KXLY is proposing to purchase 2 acres of city-owned land along Regal Street as part of their plans to develop their part of the Southgate District Center. This sale proposal and what it means for our neighborhood will be a major topic of our November meeting. Below you will find some background information as well as copies of the latest version of the proposed sale agreement (PSA) and drafts of KXLY’s larger proposal for a land swap involving the Southeast Sports Complex.

Background on The District Center

Just to refresh everyone’s memory, KXLY owns 15 acres of land on the west side of Regal Street across from the new Target center and south of the Southeast Soccer Complex that is part of the Southgate District Center. They also own an additional 15 acres of land behind their property on Regal that has their broadcast tower located on it (this will be important in a minute). Their District Center parcel is subject to a Developer Agreement with the city passed in 2009 that allows them to build a big box store up to 108,000 square feet (for reference, Shopko is about 95,000 sqft) and the property is zoned Center and Corridor 2 (CC2), just like Target.

An overview of the Southgate District Center with the KXLY properties highlighted.
An overview of the Southgate District Center with the KXLY properties highlighted.

Background on the Proposed Sale

Directly to the north of KXLY’s property along Regal lies a small 2 acre parcel that was formerly owned by District 81. In 2013 this land was swapped for 20 acres of city-owned land by Joe Albi Stadium. Now the KXLY is proposing to purchase the 2 acre parcel from the city in order to gain easier access to their District Center property from the new stoplight at Regal Street and Palouse Hwy.

The Southgate Neighborhood Council was approached in September by Council President Ben Stuckart to provide some conditions to the Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) to help ensure the deal furthers the development of our District Center consistently with Spokane city ordinances and helps implement the Southgate Neighborhood Plans developed a few years ago. The SNC Land Use Committee proposed the following conditions (Section 7.3 of the PSA):

  1. The Southgate Neighborhood’s appeal settlement (in the form of an ISP Implementation Memo) for the right-of-way design in the District Center be finalized prior to the sale of the land to KXLY.
  2. Development of this property is subject to the notification provisions recent adopted by the city and that our District 2 city council members be notified as well.
  3. The property be zoned CC2 (currently it is zoned single-famiy residential) to match the rest of the Southgate District Center.
  4. The property would be subject to the existing KXLY Developer’s Agreement.
  5. The property would be subject to the terms of the Integrated Site Plan for the District Center
  6. Any access road or easement across the property be set back from Regal Street 250′-300′ to help create an urban scale block (no frontage road style design)
  7. The city will set aside $300,000 of the sale price for further development of multi-use trails in the conformance with the Southgate Neighborhood Connectivity Plan
  8. KXLY agrees to substantive input/collaboration with the neighborhood on site plans, infrastructure, public realm, and architecture related to the ISP or Southgate Neighborhood Plan.

The buyers (KXLY) were also able to supply conditions to the sale and their included (Section 7.1 of PSA):

  1. Land Use Approvals that included a zoning change from residential to commercial, “authorizing use and development of the property generally and substantially consistent with the approvals previously recorded” in the Developer’s Agreement, ISP. KXLY, “reserves the right to determine whether mitigation is reasonable or consistent with the … development agreement.”
  2. KXLY will have obtained an easement from the City of Spokane Park Board for pedestrian, vehicle, and utility access to the intersection at Regals Street and Palouse Highway.

Since late September the city, Southgate Neighborhood Council, and the developers have been ironing out the wording and details of the Purchase and Sale Agreement. We will discuss this in detail at the Southgate Neighborhood Council Meeting on Wednesday, November 11th. Please plan on coming to listen to the details and provide your thoughts on this proposal.

The Next Steps and Land Swap

As mentioned above, KXLY has proposed an easement across the Southeast Sports Complex as condition of the sale of the city land (meaning if they can’t get the easement, they don’t have to buy the land). This easement is a critical component of KXLY’s plans for developing their property in the District Center. It provides them signalized access to their property and will provide easier access to the businesses in their development. It is also the first step in a larger proposal they made 21 months ago to the Spokane Park Board for a larger land swap along Regal Street.

In January 2014, KXLY’s architect and lawyer presented a draft proposal for a land swap wherein KXLY would take control of the eastern part of the Southeast Sports Complex (along Regal Street and 46th Ave.) and swap the Parks Department for some of the land behind their District Center property (under the radio tower). See, I told you that other property would be important.

Image of the draft land swap proposed by KXLY to the Park Board in January 2014.
Image of the draft land swap proposed by KXLY to the Park Board in January 2014 with proposed land purchase and easement in place.

The vision of KXLY is to add more commercial property from the corner of 46th heading south along Regal into their property. They provided a letter of intent to the Park Board to enter into discussions about this plan and it was adopted by a resolution passed by the Park Board at their meeting in January 2014. Now a swap would likely take the form of a sale or long-term lease, both of which the Park Board (and city law) saws require a vote of the people of Spokane. This concept would also require a land use amendment since the park land is zoned single-family residential and would have to be converted to some form of commercial zoning.

So as you can see, this land sale and easement are the first two dominoes that set the stage for some rather drastic changes to the current makeup of our neighborhood, especially our largest park. I encourage you to read the proposed sale agreement and to attend the November Southgate Neighborhood Council Meeting so we can start this process off on the right foot and make sure the development plans are appropriate based on the guiding laws and policies of Spokane.