Clay Street rezone an example of the need for public input
In Our Opinion
It’s important for a community’s residents to be involved in determining what takes place around them.
An example is the current discussion surrounding a parcel of land on Clay Street. Property owner Randall Gillingham has applied for a rezone of his one-third acre property from multifamily (R-3) to high-density multifamily (R-3H) in order to possibly construct a 14-unit apartment building on the site.
Gillingham has no firm plans to do this right now, and is simply testing the waters — as it were — at the request of the city of Cheney. Under the current R-3, he could build an apartment building of up to around eight units and no higher than two stories, while with R-3H he could go higher — 55 feet compared to 36 — with more units as long as he meets off-street parking requirements.
Eight to 10 years ago the city lacked the amount of multifamily housing one might expect to find in a college town. That has changed with the development of complexes at Eagle Point and around Betz Road, Al Ogdon Way and Simpson Parkway, so it’s interesting someone might be considering building more.
More interesting is the dynamics of the Clay Street location. Back in 1983 when Centennial Park was built next door, the area was largely single-family (R-1) zoned, but sparsely developed by comparison to other parts of the city.
Gillingham’s parcel, which he inherited in 2002, was rezoned R-3 in 1994. It’s not an island of multifamily housing however, because directly behind it to the northeast sits the multi-building College Hill Apartments, constructed in the 1970s, and further east along Clay Street more complexes added in the last 10 years.
Across the street however, the zoning is still R-1, homes that have also been built within the last 10-12 years. Those homeowners have expressed legitimate concerns about the possibility of another apartment building in the area and voiced opposition. The chief fear centers on Centennial Park, which is highly used by numerous youth soccer and football programs.
The amount of parking at Centennial really is lacking for a facility with a high degree of usage, even if seasonal, causing people coming to games to park on the surrounding streets. This increases the volume of traffic as people circle the block, looking for a spot, as well as the number of individuals darting in and out of parking spaces and crossing the street. There is a real danger of someone getting hurt, and residents feel adding more housing units will increase the likelihood of an accident.
But this editorial isn’t about the merits or demerits of more multifamily housing next to Centennial Park. It’s about the need for vigilance and participation by residents in the development of their community.
The Growth Management Act passed in 1990 created a process to better provide for long-term growth, one aspect of which is a jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan. All communities update their plans periodically, including public input via hearings, workshops and other events.
Cheney, Medical Lake and Airway Heights have all been in the process of updating their comprehensive plans, but unfortunately those efforts often fall on the public’s deaf ears or lack of attention. Events to gather input are sparsely attended, if at all, and seldom do residents visit a planning commission meeting to testify.
Code changes, such as what’s proposed on Clay Street, must also go through a public process, one often it seems are only attended by crickets. Only at the last minute when such a change is proposed does the public quickly spring into action.
The residents along Clay Street likely didn’t know that the Gillingham property was zoned for multifamily development. That’s not the point.
The point is that over the course of time as the city has grown there have been opportunities to address how it grows and develops that don’t seem to have garnered much attention. The public would be wise to change that from now on.