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Cheney restructures development functions

City splits up planning and development duties, takes new direction in its code revision process


Cheney planning commissioners found out at their regular monthly meeting Monday that they are now under new management.

Two managers to be precise.

City Administrator Arlene Fisher told commissioners that the departure of Community Development director Brian Jennings last week presented some new opportunities for the city regarding development. Jennings left to accept a position with the non-profit low-income housing provider Community Frameworks.

Instead of replacing Jennings the city will restructure. Planning and development duties will be handled by Fisher, current planner Brett Lucas and Public Works director Todd Ableman, with Fisher and Ableman splitting the director responsibilities. Ableman will serve as director of the Building Department, with Fisher adding that she will start spending Wednesdays each week at an office in the city’s Utility Building.

Fisher said the new structure was not implemented because of revenue projections, although there appeared to be some consideration. Rather, officials felt this was a good time to take development in a new direction.

“If revenues jump to levels where we feel comfortable then we’ll certainly look at filling the position,” Fisher said in an interview Tuesday. “We think between the three of us, we can handle it.”

One of the first orders of business under the new structure was a revamping of the city’s Unified Development Code review process that the commission has been working on now for over a year. Ableman presented commissioners with a updated schedule that includes going over chapters the commission has already looked at and held several workshops on regarding proposed changes, such as Chapter 21 dealing with zoning classifications semi-rural (SR-2), single-family (R-1), two-family (R-2) and multi-family (R-3) residential zoning.

The “shifting gears,” as commission chair Vince Barthels put it, in the review process created some confusion among commissioners.

“What have we done so far then?” Commissioner Keith Fauerso asked.

Ableman said Jennings had presented a number of good suggestions regarding code updates in the commission’s previous work, and those would be reviewed to see what might work and can be integrated. The new process lines out a more specified timeline for review by the commission, the City Council and the city’s legal counsel, along with establishing eight priorities for the work. The new process will keep a lot of the existing code alongside those being proposed.

“Sometimes you need to know what is being changed,” Ableman said. “It’s just easier to keep in the existing nomenclature, the existing code, which should make it less confusing.”

Ableman also said the new approach will make the review process a more comprehensive process by getting departments such as building and public works involved in the updates, some of which are likely to affect those departments if approved. Once the timeline goals are met and implementation is approved, the process then moves toward external review and then final approval by the council.

In the only other action, Commissioner Curt Critchlow updated commissioners on proposals for traffic improvements on the West Plains. Critchlow attended a recent public meeting regarding proposed changes, most of which affected traffic flows to the city of Airway Heights and west Spokane in and around Spokane International Airport.

The only aspect of proposed changes affected Cheney is the airport’s plans to potentially put in a new runway parallel and west of the existing runway, a project that would permanently close Hayford Road, the main north-south corridor between Cheney and Airway Heights.

Critchlow said two ideas are being considered to replace Hayford, one of which would be a new corridor connecting SR 904 and running north over I-90 to Airway Heights.

John McCallum can be reached at


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