Cheney Free Press -

Planning Commission discusses new Cheney zoning districts


August 16, 2012

Expanded residential, new mixed use zone included in the proposed rewrite of the city's development codes


Staff Reporter

New zoning districts and changes to existing zones were introduced at the Cheney Planning Commission meeting Monday.

The changes, part of a major rewrite of the city's outdated development codes, featured an expansion of the residential zoning districts and the introduction of a new zone for mixed use development. The commission approved a draft zoning code outline, advancing the process that has several months to go before completion.

Two new zoning districts, mixed use residential and mixed use commercial, would aim to increase residential options in traditional commercial areas. Ailing commercial corridors like the portion of First Street north of downtown and south of the Cheney-Spokane Road intersection could benefit from such a zone, Community Development director Brian Jennings said.

“The market seems to be saying that commercial alone isn't going to succeed there,” he said.

The mixed use zone would allow development of buildings containing a mixture of retail, office and residential uses. The buildings would be placed close to the street, without parking in between, to encourage pedestrian travel. The zones would also encourage more commercial-centric development at certain corners.

Proposed new residential zones ranged from a low-density R-4, with around four homes per acre, to high-density R-15, with 15 units per acre, and R-HD, with no maximum for units per acre.

“That might seem scary, no maximum, but there are other factors that will limit that,” Jennings said, incl uding building height maximums.

The proposed new residential districts would allow for a wider variety of building types and lot sizes than what is currently available, including attached single-family homes on small lots. City planner Brett Lucas told the commission that the wide variety of housing options allowed would help developers as well as encourage home ownership and provide more flexibility to respond to changing markets and design trends.

“We want the requirements to be flexible,” Lucas said. “Not every parcel is the same size or works the same way.”

Much of the discussion focused on enhancing transportation in Cheney, and some of the zoning districts were intended to encourage walking and bus-riding over driving individual vehicles.

Jennings said the high-density residential districts would need to be located near bus routes and retail centers to deal with limited parking.

“If all of those people end up driving all of their cars to get across town or go to the grocery store, it's going to become a problem,” he said.

Ultimately, the Planning Commission members in attendance agreed with the direction of the proposed zoning districts, though there was some discussion about the number of different districts. Commissioners, echoed by local developer Steve Emtman's testimony at the meeting, asked whether some similar districts could be combined for simplicity.

Jennings and Lucas said they would continue to work on the code update, and encouraged meeting attendees to follow the progress on the city's website at

The Planning Commission had not been meeting regularly since April, since public code update meetings were ongoing, but the commission will meet regularly next month, Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall council chambers.

Becky Thomas can be reached at


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