The public comment period for the KXLY Development SEPA Application ends tomorrow, June 19th, at 5:00pm. This comment period snuck up on us since there was no notification made directly to the neighborhood via mail or to the broader public via a posted sign on the property. There was apparently a notice placed in the Spokesman Review for those that read the public notice pages.
Regardless of the lack of notification, you still have a chance to have your opinions on this project heard. We have collected all the development materials on one page for your to review. SNC also submitted comments during the agency review period that you can review as well.
Some of the main topics of concern from our comments that remain to be fully answered is the true measure of traffic impacts from this development. Aside from specifically calling out the future grocery store, the developers use the more broad development category “Shopping Center” to measure their traffic impact, but we know that there are other high impact traffic generators included in the plan such as a drive-through restaurant. This would increase their traffic impact and as a result their mitigation fee to the City.
One other area of remaining concern are the developer’s plans to manage stormwater on their site. Preliminary plans show them retaining the water in a large pond under the radio tower to the west of the development. There have been concerns about groundwater saturation from neighbors upstream of the KXLY site who already experience high water tables and occasional flooding in their neighborhoods. How will the City and developer certify that paving 80% of the project site will still allow for proper infiltration and movement of storm water for these existing residents?
Whatever your views and concerns are, I encourage you to send an email to John Halsey, firstname.lastname@example.org, prior to the closing of the comment period tomorrow evening.
The KXLY Development in the Southgate District Center has two different review deadlines coming up this week.
On Wednesday, March 22nd the City’s Design Review Board will hold a “recommendation meeting” of the project at 5:30pm at City Hall where the developers will present their responses to the initial design review back in February. You can see the updated design here (warning: large 150MB file). The biggest changes are enhanced pedestrian connections between the development and the park, inclusion of infrastructure for STA’s new High Performance Transit stops along Regal, addition of a mid-block pedestrian crossing on Regal between the new development and the Target site, and better screening of the south side of the proposed grocery store. Feel free to take a look and send your comments in to Julie Neff at the City Planing Department.
On Thursday, March 23rd the agency comment period for the KXLY project SEPA Application closes. The SEPA Application is where we can comment on issues like traffic impacts and stormwater management. The SEPA Application references a Traffic Operation Study submitted to the City in December that covers trip generation and Level of Service (LOS) for roads around Southgate before and after the project. The traffic study says the project will add 12,625 ADT to Regal Street bringing the total trips on that section of Regal up to 28,525 ADT when added together with existing trips from the City of Spokane Traffic Volume Map. That total doesn’t include trips generated by the new Maverik gas station or the proposed Regal Commons project. The SEPA application also covers potential stormwater impacts, so you can review that information as well. You can submit your comments on this SEPA Application to John Halsey at the City of Spokane Planning Department.
This SEPA comment period is the agency comment period for this project. There will be another public comment period after the developer responds to the agency comments. Recent updates to the Spokane Municipal Code for neighborhood notification means that neighborhoods now get notified during the agency comment period instead of having to wait for the public comment period, but you can comment in both.
Things are moving fast with the weather improving. Make yourself heard before it’s too late.
At our last Southgate Neighborhood Council meeting the developers of the KXLY property presented a concept site plan highlighting their project’s connection to the Southeast Sports Complex and its enactment of the intent of the Center and Corridor zoning and Integrated Site Plan.
We’ve uploaded the full presentation here for people to look and review. Keep in mind a couple things: 1)These are just draft concepts and there have been no building permits applied for at this time. 2) The developer has not mentioned or listed any tenants of the buildings at this time. So any mention of a company or store is just illustrative.
You can catch a news story about this on KXLY News tonight at 5pm and 6pm.
Lastly, please make sure to comment on the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the small city-owned parcel between the park and KXLY’s property. Comments are due July 11th and you can see more information about the proposal on the City’s Planning Department website. The comments period is just about the zoning change and purchase of the small city-owned parcel, not the development as a whole. The full development will get its own design review and comment period when the developers submit building permits. This proposal is the first domino that as to fall before any major development actions take place.
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.
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):
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.
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.
The property be zoned CC2 (currently it is zoned single-famiy residential) to match the rest of the Southgate District Center.
The property would be subject to the existing KXLY Developer’s Agreement.
The property would be subject to the terms of the Integrated Site Plan for the District Center
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)
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
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):
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.”
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.
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.
Here is a good example of what we are trying to avoid in terms of street design in the Southgate District Center. The Atlantic shared this a month or so ago and it is applicable to our neighborhood planning situation all over Spokane.
We want to avoid a stroad at all costs. Spokane is rife with stroads, and Regal Street could join the list if we don’t get the city to enact the District Center code requirements and neighborhood plans. A stroad is a poorly designed street that neither accommodates auto traffic well, but also does not encourage multi-modal transportation or maximize the land use around it.
Welcome back! Now, for the second part of our Epic Planning Battles: Traffic Calming. Traffic calming is a set of road features used to create the environment that encourages pedestrian and bike uses in the District Center. Traffic calming, as envisioned by the City of Spokane, is a set of tools that can help implement our Centers and Corridors zoning and Complete Streets ordinance.
According to the City, traffic calming is, “a self-enforcing management approach that forces motorists to alter their speed or direction of travel. The purpose of traffic calming is to improve safety, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists, and to improve the environment or livability of streets for residents and visitors.” I want to emphasize that most traffic calming tactics are not meant to slow down traffic below posted limits and increase congestion, but rather encourage adherence to posted speeds and create conditions where other road users have safer access to our streets.
Given that our District Center is zoned CC1 (Pedestrian Emphasis/Auto Accommodating), traffic calming along Regal Street and Palouse Highway are a crucial part in changing the character of the area to meet the requirements of the zoning. Right now the roads through the Southgate District Center feature no bike accommodation and have pedestrian access that does not meet current city design standards; specifically a lack of any sidewalks along Palouse Highway and no pedestrian buffer strips on the sections of sidewalk we do have.
Speed limits through our District Center are currently posted at 30 -35 mph. According to the Spokane Comprehensive Plan, minor arterials in Focus Growth Areas should have a speed limit range of 20-30 mph.
In keeping with the precedent set in other CC1 zones, the speed limit through our District Center should be lowered to 20 mph to allow for safer bike and pedestrian use of our roads. I know people will deride this goal as only creating congestion on what they consider to be an already congested road, but looking at the amount of road effected and the reduction in speed we are talking about only 11 seconds of extra travel time along Regal through the District Center and 21 seconds along Palouse Hwy. Not a large amount of time by any standard, but a huge increase in livability and traffic calming for our pedestrian-oriented District Center.
Two big traffic calming features that create “frictional slowing” by creating the perception of a narrower road are on-street parking and planted medians. On-street parking has two benefits, it increases the amount of available parking in the District Center and the parked cars visually narrow the road (even though the lanes are the same standard width) encouraging motorists to slow down and be cautious. That’s a good thing in a pedestrian-oriented shopping district. Planted medians achieve the same effect by narrowing from the middle, increasing the perception of a narrow road and causing drivers to be more cautious and aware of their surroundings.
According to Spokane Municipal Code, on-street parking is a required feature in all Centers and Corridors. Both on-street parking and medians are key features in the street character designs in the District Center Integrated Site Plan and the Southgate Connectivity and Transportation Plan. We will not have the option of on-street parking in Southgate; the city has decided to not make our street designs align with Spokane Municipal Code and omitted on-street parking from the offsite improvements in our District Center. We are still not sure why or how this key feature was eliminated and it is part of an ongoing discussion with city planning staff. We are pursuing the inclusion of planted medias as mitigation for the lack of the required on-street parking, but have yet to reach an agreement with the city about its inclusion. They have agreed in theory to the inclusion of medias, but there is not yet agreement about how to pay for them or when they need to be built.
Ultimately, the goal is to change the character of the road to absorb the impact of increased traffic from the development of the District Center properties. As mentioned in our last post, adding a streetlight at Palouse and Regal will manage the flow of the new traffic, but it is these traffic calming and complete street elements that will provide options for people in our area to travel to the Southgate District Center in something other than a car that stand to have the most impact on increased demand.
Providing multi-modal facilities and a calm traffic environment will create a district that encourages people to get out of their cars. There will be plenty of parking (Target alone has 11 acres), but we want to make this a place you can park at and then travel around by foot, or get to without a car entirely.
There is a persistent myth that adding more lanes eases congestion, when in reality all it does is bring more traffic. Multiple studies going back to the late-60’s have concluded that expanding traffic lanes will initiall ease congestion, but the expansion also lowers the “cost” (in terms of time/convenience usually, but also in economic terms) of a trip and induce more cars to use the road. This is called induced demand. According to later studies, within about 5 years 80% of the extra capacity is used up and congestion returns worse than before. This raises the pressure for more capacity and further expansion into less congested areas, a condition we all know and love as suburban sprawl.
In the case of our District Center, the city has determined (on two occasions now) the level of new traffic created by development in our District Center does not warrant more lanes along Regal or Palouse (as measured by their traffic models and a result they call Level of Service). That is not to say it will be completely without effect and the city does collect traffic mitigation fees and apply them to traffic projects around the development. In Southgate they are adding the stoplight at Palouse and Regal to help make it easier for vehicles to turn left onto Regal and for pedestrians to make it across Regal. I think we can all agree getting onto southbound Regal from Palouse Hwy can be a hassle occasionally.
The measures being supported by the Southgate Neighborhood Council are aimed at making the area more usable for all types of users: auto, transit, bike, and pedestrian (an approach known as Complete Streets). This aligns with both the Spokane Comprehensive Plan that says the priority consideration for transportation use in Spokane should be pedestrian, bike, and auto, in that order (TR 1.1, pg. 12); and the the Complete Streets Ordinance of the Spokane Municipal Code, which states that all streets shall include complete streets elements. Both of these documents, as well as current best practice in urban planning, point out the need to consider more than just auto user needs on our roads.
And that is how you get back to avoiding the cycle of induced demand: options. When the “cost” of getting in your car to go to the new District Center is equal (or even higher than) to the “cost” of walking or biking on dedicated sidewalks or trails, then we will actually start seeing reduced demand. And that is the only lasting way to relieve congestion.
The idea of creating options includes options for autos. If people feel Regal is too crowded and will only get worse, then there needs to be other route options available to them to get through or around the District Center. That’s why the Southgate Neighborhood Connectivity and Transportation Plan (with maps) makes one of it’s priorities “completing the grid”. Our neighborhood has very poor east/west connectivity. Between 37th and 57th there isn’t a single complete east/west route. Giving people better options for moving east and west across our neighborhood would relieve the pressure on Regal Street and maybe even get people home faster.
Now, creating a complete street environment will take some traffic calming, which we will discuss in the next post. I think this is a long enough post for one night, stay tuned for Part 2: Traffic Calming.