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Cheney commission begins hearing on Clay Street rezone

Proposal would allow for potentially more multifamily residential density next to Centennial Park


Cheney’s Planning Commission opened a somewhat unusual public hearing Monday night on a proposed rezone that has some local residents not only frustrated about the proposal, but also that the area is even zoned the way it is in the first place.

The city is considering a request to change the zoning of a land parcel adjacent to Centennial Park from R-3 multifamily residential to R-3H high density multifamily residential. The change would allow parcel owner Randy Gillingham to construct a 4,550-square-foot, 14-unit apartment building at 625 Clay St. where a single-family home now stands.

The hearing is unusual in that it opened Monday night but is also being continued to the commission’s next regular meeting, March 10. City planner Brett Lucas recommended the meeting continuation because rezone applicant NAI agent Brian Anderson, while notifying nearby property owners of the request, hadn’t provide proper notification to the public at large through the Cheney Free Press.

Continuing the public hearing to March would provide for additional public testimony while Anderson worked to set up proper legal notification.

A zoning change would allow Gillingham to construct a building with a slightly larger footprint but much taller. Under current zoning requirements, R-3H allows for 40 percent maximum lot coverage for a building as compared to 35 percent in R-3, as well as smaller per unit square footage, 1,000 square feet versus 2,000. It also allows a maximum building height of 55 feet instead of the 36 feet under R-3.

Local resident Pete Baccarella spoke in opposition not only to the rezone, but also to the fact that the parcel carries a multifamily zoning in the first place. Baccarella, who lives on Seventh Street across from Centennial Park, said the location isn’t at an intersection but at a narrow curve where Seventh turns into Clay that has restricted visibility.

Even more of a factor is that Centennial is where many local youth leagues play their games, and has very limited parking right now. While that activity is seasonal, it creates a high degree of congestion as cars circle looking for parking spots and kids dart in and out of traffic.

“They park in my driveway, let alone on the street,” Baccarella said.

Putting a potential three-story building on the corner will exacerbate an already dangerous situation by adding more cars to the equation coming in and out of the apartment building’s parking lot. Baccarella said the current R-3 zoning is at odds with the single-family residence ringing the park, and that the city really should be addressing that zoning, parking and traffic now without the multifamily development.

“I wish it was R-1 and would stay R-1,” he said. “All it will take is one kid getting hit at that park and you will listen to what I’m telling you.”

Anderson spoke on behalf of Gillingham, telling the commission there aren’t any current proposals in place with specifics on the building that would be constructed. The request for a rezone was mainly to see if the project might be worth pursuing, and while he agreed with Baccarella on the parking situation, noted that the parcel is now zoned for multifamily development.

“I don’t know if it’s 100 percent appropriate to dump this into a citizen’s lap and disallow something already allowed in the code now,” Anderson said. He added that he has lived on Sixth Street near the park and understands the parking situation.

“But it should be addressed as a separate issue,” he said.

Baccarella’s wife Jewel also spoke in opposition to the proposal, telling commissioners to visit the location for themselves to get a better feel for the problems. Pete Baccarella added that if he had the money he would buy the parcel just to make sure it didn’t get developed on other than possibly parking, leading Commissioner Curt Critchlow to indirectly ask City councilmen Graeme Webster and Doug Nixon, who were in attendance, if the city would consider buying the land if money were available.

City attorney Stanley Schwartz told the commissioners that he was going on the record to remind them that the proposal before them was simply for a rezone. Their focus should remain on that.

“If other things unfold, terrific, but that is not in front of you at this point,” he said.

John McCallum can be reached at

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