The Cheney Planning Commission began a new process of reviewing and updating the city’s zoning codes at their July 8 regular meeting, picking up a backlog of chapter reviews left over from their canceled June meeting and a new list this month.
Most of the review consisted of administrative changes to existing sections of Chapter 21 involving the comprehensive plan, administration and interpretation, definitions and zoning and use classifications. Public Works director Todd Ableman told the commission the idea was to make the chapters easier to understand and reference, such as chapter 21.08 – Definitions, which was expanded to incorporate zoning definitions previously listed at the beginning of other chapters.
“The thinking here was to put them all in one chapter alphabetically,” Ableman, who now oversees city planning services along with City Administrator Arlene Fisher, said.
Commissioners reserved most of their comments for a new chapter, 21.10 – Measurements, and changes made to the existing Chapter 21.17 – Critical Area Limited Residential. Measurements used existing residential and commercial information condensed into shorter descriptions and incorporating pictorial depictions rather than just text descriptions, which can be difficult to visualize sometimes.
“Pictorial takes away some of the ambiguity we’ve experienced in the past,” Fisher said.
The Critical Area Limited Residential chapter deals largely with developments on rural-type properties within the city, limiting single-family and multi-family uses to four units per acre. Ableman said staff planned to have the commissioners take a deeper look at the chapter by bringing it back before them and taking a look at how development might work on existing lands rather than making changes.
Planning Commission chair Vince Barthels said he liked some of the changes made in the CALR chapter, noting citizens have expressed past concerns on how these regulations enable development to take place while also preserving some of the desirable features of larger parcels such as wetlands.
“I remember a few years back a lot of citizens saying we really need to take measurable strides to protect the wetlands,” Barthels said.
As an example he pointed to page eight of the chapter, which addresses minimum and maximum lot sizes, maximum net densities and net density calculations. Barthels said he would like to see the chapter lean more towards limiting densities and incentives to develop such parcels.
“Developers are always going to want to increase densities, that’s where they make their money,” he said.
Barthels said there are existing developments within Cheney already pushing some of these CALR densities, but added he was more concerned about future development that might be coming to town.
One chapter, 21.16 – Semi-Rural Residential (SR-2), was deleted. In an interview July 16, Ableman said the zone is more of a Spokane County designation brought into the city codes when Cheney was annexing some county land. The density requirements in SR-2 will likely be rolled into the CALR chapter.
“We only see SR-2 now around our treatment plant,” Ableman said. “And that is now open space.”
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.