Tag Archives: Vaughn

Second Meeting on Regal Commons Traffic Impacts July 5th

The developers of the Regal Commons, the former Regal Lumber Site, will be holding a traffic impact meeting on Wednesday, July 5th at 5pm at the Spokane Public Library, South Hill Branch (at 3324 S. Perry Street). This is the promised/required follow-up meeting to the initial traffic study scoping meeting held in October of last year. You can read the final study ahead of time here.

We have written before, here and here, about the Regal Commons development and the potential impacts to traffic along Regal Street. Suffice to say the neighborhood council was not convinced that the SEPA Application took into account the specific land uses proposed in Phase 1 of the Regal Commons project and in some cases seemed to underestimate the amount of traffic generated by a factor of ten.

The traffic study that will be discussed addresses some of those comments, however it will be interesting to see how they decide to code the two drive through restaurants proposed along Regal Street. Originally they had these coded as “Shopping Center” buildings, grossly underestimating the amount of traffic generated by their actual use “Fast Food Restaurant with Drive Through Window.” This new study changes the designation of the drive through restaurants to, “Fast Food W/ Drive Thru as modified by the City of Spokane.” The City of Spokane Engineering Department created a modified fast food land use category for this development that tries to establish a difference between standard fast food like Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and McDonald’s versus “fast casual” restaurants like Panera, Chipotle, and Qdoba.

Now the interesting thing about fast casual restaurants is that when they are described by the industry, the differences have to do with price, menu options, and interior aesthetics. The style of service is the same: fast, drive through service. It will be interesting to see what the trip generation numbers would be comparing the original fast food land use code with the modified one from the city.

Another interesting point is that based on public testimony from the developer at City Council only one of the proposed restaurants would be classified as fast casual by industry standards. He said one of his desired tenants is Panera Bread. The other tenant mentioned was Chik Fil A, which is not a fast casual restaurant, but a standard fast food chain. So if nothing else, the trip generation report should be edited to reflect this.

I encourage you all to come down to the meeting on July 5th, there is no indication the notice that you can give comments ahead of time or by email. Though I suspect if you sent a comment to the proponent listed and CCed our City Council representatives it would be noticed. FYI, our regular neighborhood council meeting will be taking place later that evening at 7pm at ESD 101.


No Discussion of Impacts at Traffic Scoping Meeting

Residents of the upper South Hill attended a Traffic Scoping Meeting  last night held by the traffic engineer for the developer of the Regal Commons development along Regal Street. Attendees looking for answers as to the potential impact of the development and solutions to the current traffic issues on Regal were disappointed to learn the there was no real discussion of potential impacts discussed at the meeting. The developer’s engineer, Mr. Whipple, said that this meeting was to gather input from neighbors about areas that needed to be addressed by their traffic study and that results of their study would be presented to the neighborhood in a couple of months.

The only real traffic impact data shared was old data from the developer’s SEPA application back in early June stating that the total buildout of the 8 acre site would result in about 3000 trips a day along Regal Street. As we have discussed in an earlier post, this number vastly under estimates the specific land use impacts of the proposed drive thru restaurants according to rates from the International Transportation Engineers (ITE) Trip Generation Manual. The ITE Manual is the standard reference and method used in Spokane to determine potential traffic impact of various types of projects. The developer’s SEPA application has been on hold since early August while Mr. Whipple develops new trip generation estimates using more appropriate land use codes for the proposed development. He argues that looking at individual land uses grossly exaggerates the actual number of trips per day which is why he elected to use the broader land use code he originally did. However, these trip generation rates are how the City and County determine the amount of mitigation to be paid for the impact of the development. I would hope that our municipalities would err on planning for the upper end of potential impact, our City planners seem to agree and have asked for revised estimates. We will share the new numbers once they are given to the City.

The main point of the traffic scoping meeting is to determine what intersections and parts of the road system to study for current and potential impacts from the development. In this case the City and County asked the developer to study these intersections:

  • Regal and 53rd
  • Regal and 55th
  • Regal and 57th
  • Freya and 55th
  • Freya and 57th

The attendees asked that he scope be expanded to include other intersections such as:

  • Freya and Palouse Hwy
  • 53rd and Crestline
  • 55th and Crestline
  • 37th and Freya

There were a number of neighbors (myself included) that called for a broader comprehensive traffic study on the South Hill that looked not just at issues around Regal Street and 53rd, but looked at traffic patterns on and off the hill as well clear over to the Glenrose area. This is likely beyond the scope of this traffic study, but it is something area residents should pursue with the City and County to do in a coordinated and comprehensive way taking into account the full potential buildout of developable land in the City and out in the County’s Urban Growth Area.

In addition to studying current traffic levels, the study needs to account for “background” projects. These are projects that have already been approved but may not have been fully built out. Mr. Whipple said that in this case that includes the Ben Burr Apartments currently under construction at Ben Burr Road and 57th Avenue, the 55th Avenue apartment complexes, and the “Swarthout” Strip Mall at 55th and Regal. We asked that his background data also include the nearly completed Palouse Trail Apartments behind Target, the KXLY and Maverick District Center properties (there were traffic estimates associated with their SEPA applications from 2008), and the Maverick gas station/Douglass property at 44th and Regal (this property had a 7000+ ADT traffic impact assigned to it during its 1997 SEPA process). All of these projects came with hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicle trips per day associated with them. Adding them all together places Regal Street well over capacity as a designated Minor Arterial. Other items to be considered in the traffic study is a sight distance analysis along Regal at 53rd and 55th and a “Mini-roundabout” at Freya and 57th (we’re looking for more info on that).

Neighbors took the opportunity to discuss their perception of current traffic conditions along the Regal Street corridor and their experiences trying to commute along the street in recent years. KXLY News was on hand to record the event and posted a short story about it on their evening news. Suffice to say people are already experiencing extended commute times during peak traffic hours and many wanted to see Regal widened to accommodate more traffic. As has been said in the past, widening Regal is not an option since the City and County do not have the right-of-way available to put more lanes on the street. City traffic engineer Inga Note, who was in attendance, verified that fact and said there are no plans and no real way to widen Regal. It has been shown both nationally and around the world that widening roads only provides temporary relief to auto congestion. While no solutions were forthcoming at the traffic scoping meeting, the issue is now very apparent to the developer, the City, and the County.

One possible mitigation proposed by the developer is to add a traffic light at 53rd and Regal. This will not reduce traffic, but could help manage its flow, especially into and out of the new development. However, the City Capital Improvement Plan does not have this project listed and the COS Transportation Impact Program report cited by Mr. Whipple that lists a traffic signal at 53rd and Regal has not be adopted by the City, so their mitigation funds cannot be used for that project. Additionally, City policy states that traffic signals need to be placed at the intersection of designated arterials. Regal is designated a Minor Arterial, but 53rd is not. Another detail for the City to work out with the developer.

Finally, there were concerns from a few attendees about the non-auto users of the neighborhood roads. Bicyclists and pedestrians (including school kids) use Regal and adjoining roads as paths to school and businesses around Southgate. No one felt that Regal was a safe environment for these users. Mr. Whipple took the time to explain that existing conditions cannot be blamed on the proposed Regal Commons development. However, it should be incumbent upon him and the developer to make sure their project does not exacerbate these issues, especially since the zoning for their project is supposed to be pedestrian-oriented as described by both the City and County code.

Overall, there were no solution offered at the meeting last night, and there was not a clear picture of the potential impacts given either. Southgate Neighborhood Council will continue to monitor the progress of the SEPA application and notify folks of any opportunities to give comment or learn more about the state of the development.

If you have concerns and comments about this issue I encourage you to email the SEPA Application coordinator for this project, John Halsey at the City Planning Department. You can also send a note or CC our City Council representatives, Breean Beggs and Lori Kinnear.

As always if you have questions for us you can email us as well.

Developer Submits Building Application Prior to Annexation

Many of you saw the article in Sunday’s Spokesman Review proclaiming that Mr. Vaughn had “vested” plans for his property just prior to the City’s annexation taking effect. We wanted to post some additional information to supplement and clarify what was covered in the story.

As stated in the story, Mr. Vaughn submitted an application to the County on May 26th and it was deemed “complete” by the County Planning Department. Under Washington state law, this “vests” Mr. Vaughn’s proposal under the zoning and development rules in place at the time of the application, regardless of any changes that may be made through zoning changes, or in this case an annexation. This is the same rule that allows developers to put subdivisions in rural areas whenever the County Commissioners illegally expand the Urban Growth Area. Developers submit permit applications while the expansion is being appealed and when the expansion is overturned they are allowed to still develop their subdivisions even though the land is now back in a rural designation.

The Spokesman story leads you to believe he vested development on the entire 9-acre site, in reality he submitted four building permits for buildings on the west side of the property: two drive-thru restaurants and two retail commercial shells. The drive-thru businesses specifically would not be allowed in the City’s Center and Corridor zoning that took effect on Saturday with the annexation.

The application to the County includes the buildings in red and the orange area called Phase 1.

Additionally, the developer is seeking a waiver requesting more parking than is allowed under the current County Mixed Use zoning. The County Code caps the parking ration at 4 parking spots per 1000 square feet of building space (the same as in Center and Corridor). The developer is asking for a ratio of 5/1000 which would shift the focus of the development further form the intent of the County zoning and create a fully auto-oriented development. This would raise the number of parking spots on the site from 263 to 348.

There are a couple of areas that Southgate Neighborhood Council is following up on now as to whether or not the proper processes were followed by the County Planning Department in accepting the application as “complete.” One area of question is the design review required for projects in the County Mixed Use Zone. According to Spokane County Zoning Code (Chapter 14.900) and comments from County Planning staff, design review is needed for all commercial development of this size in the Mixed Use Zone and was a requirement for an application to be considered complete. No design review was ever conducted on this application’s plans prior to being certified complete. This review should ensure that the proposed development meets the full requirements of the Mixed Use Zone Urban Design Standards. Not doing it in this case and adhering to the requirements of Chapter 14.900, the County lowered the bar for the application to be considered complete.

Another area we are seeking clarification about is the further processing of this application and subsequent applications moving forward. This property is now part of the City of Spokane, a portion of it may have vested under the County Mixed Use Zone, but the rest of the property is now under the jurisdiction and zoning of the City. How the current application is finally issued and future applications reviewed is something we are trying to get answered by the City and County. We hope to have an answer on that soon. The Spokesman article mentions that, “Spokane County commissioners earlier this month authorized legal staff to draft an agreement with the city that would allow county engineers and planners to continue overseeing the regulatory process for development, as long as all materials were turned in by the annexation date.” The terms of this agreement are unknown at this time and we will be asking to see a copy of that draft agreement immediately.

We were very encouraged by the City’s decision to enact the Spokane Comprehensive Plan as they considered this development in our neighborhood. We knew that a tactic like this might be something that the developer would pursue, which is his right under state law. We are disappointed, but not particularly surprised, that the County decided to work so aggressively to lower the bar on their standards and processes to accommodate the subversion of the City of Spokane’s decision. Our hope that at minimum the vested portion of this property will be reviewed and held to the highest standards and intent of the County Zoning Code and Comprehensive Plan and that the City of Spokane Planning Department and City Council will be vocal and proactive in taking steps to ensure that the City’s ordinances and policies are applied to further development in and around this property from this day forward.

We will be discussing this issue at our next neighborhood council meeting on June 8th and updating neighbors here and on our social media accounts as we receive new information. If you feel strongly about this, please contact your City Council members and let them know they need to support their annexation and integrate it into our neighborhood per the code and Comprehensive Plan.