Cheney mixed-use options aim at developer flexibility, but concerns raised about downtown parking
By BECKY THOMAS
Cheney’s new zoning code could bring a lot more diversity in terms of building types and uses for commercial centers.
Proposed changes to the commercial zoning code were discussed Monday by the Cheney Planning Commission; the commercial changes are part of a complete overhaul of the city’s development code.
Community Development director Brian Jennings and city planner Brett Lucas presented their draft of the commercial zoning code, which was divided into three districts, C-A, C-B and C-C.
District A would be a mixed use area in the downtown core, with attached buildings and a commercial focus. Residential uses would be allowed, but not on the ground level.
District B would also be a mixed use zone, but with a more residential feel.
“Residential would be the entitled use, with some neighborhood-serving retail,” Lucas said.
District C would be a retail-centric use designed for larger retailers that are mainly served by cars.
The proposed zones won’t be applied to the map until near the end of the process, but the discussion used examples along the First Street corridor: District A would fit the downtown blocks along First and Second streets, District B would fit on either side of the downtown core, and District C would work for areas closer to the edge of town, such as the Cheney Plaza shopping center.
In recent years, many commercial and residential developers in Cheney have been frustrated by the limitations of the current code. Additionally, many buildings and lots along the First Street corridor have been vacant for many years. Jennings said the proposed commercial changes would encourage a wide variety of developments and allow for different uses as preferences change.
“Remember, this is a 20-year view,” he said.
Commissioners at the meeting voiced support of the different districts within the commercial zone, but some shared concerns about parking in more dense commercial/residential areas.
Buildings in each district would be allowed to build up to 35 feet as a “base” height. Under the draft zone, buildings in the A and B districts would receive “bonus” height when they incorporated 50 percent or more residential in the development. In the A district, buildings with “bonus” height could build up to 55 feet, and up to 45 feet in the B district. Hotels in the C district could also build up to 45 feet.
Commissioners were concerned that more residential development would create parking jams in the downtown area. Developers in the A district wouldn’t be required to provide parking under the draft zone.
Commissioner Vince Barthels asked whether the bonus height wasn’t encouraging residential development in the commercial-focused A district. He said he understood the appeal of variety for developers.
“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re not promoting things that are going to be a mess later.”
Lucas said there would be a separate parking section in the new development code, and it could address the downtown concerns.
Jennings noted that the commercial zone was in draft form, and he and Lucas would edit it based on feedback. He encouraged the commissioners to share their comments in writing.
No one from the community attended an open house on the commercial zones held before the meeting, Jennings said. Residents can share their ideas and find out more about the code update process by visiting www.cityofcheney.org/codeupdate.
Becky Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.