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Cheney council OKs Betz Elementary use permit


Cheney’s City Council essentially gave their blessing to the expansion of Betz Elementary School at their March 27 meeting by unanimously approving recommendations from the Spokane County Hearing Examiner to grant the school district a conditional use permit for the project.

In a March 5 decision, Hearing Examiner Brian T. McGinn wrote that the $2.379 million project was allowed under current land use codes, was not detrimental to public health, safety or general welfare, consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and compatible with neighboring properties with respect to a number of factors including noise, light and glare, physical hazards and traffic.

The project expands the current 52,000-square-foot building by 7,200 square feet, adding seven classrooms. The building is on 16.1 acres of land surrounded by single-family housing to the east along North Sixth Street and west along North Eighth Street, and is bordered by Hagelin Park to the south and the high school to the north.

Public Works Director Todd Ableman told the council the conditional use permit process was required because as an educational institution, the school isn’t a conforming use in the single-family residential zone.

“The reason we have a conditional use permit is that it’s in an R-1 area, and to operate a school it falls under the conditional use permit process,” Ableman said.

McGinn noted the proposal satisfies local parking requirements because current regulations require one parking space per every four seats or eight feet of bench length in whichever is the larger of an auditorium or assembly room.

“The school currently has 90 spaces available on-site, and additional parking by joint use agreement on the grounds of Cheney High School,” McGinn wrote. “Based upon the parking standards, the existing school needs only 55-60 parking spaces.”

McGinn also noted that an additional entrance will be added for students, faculty and visitors, thus further enhancing the site. Councilman John Taves asked Ableman if this was a secure entrance, to which Ableman replied he presumed it would be secured during the day and would allow for another emergency exit.

The project calls for a new main entrance that includes enhanced security measures.

Council also approved renewing a contract with Lamar Outdoor Advertising to lease a billboard located on city property along West First Street. The billboard became city property about 10 years ago when Cheney was awarded possession of the land as a resolution of a 12-year-long dispute between the property’s original owner, Thomas Myers, over land use issues.

The 10-year lease will provide Cheney an annual payment of $1,500, up from $1,000 a year, with a 5 percent increase after five years. The contract contains a stipulation that Lamar will place no advertising that competes with the business that is leasing the property from the city, Dow Landscaping and Excavating.

“We thought that would be in poor form,” City Administrator Mark Schuller said.

Finally, the council approved renewal of an ongoing two-year contract with Eastern Washington University’s Athletic Department for advertising Bonneville Power Administration’s conservation program at university sports venues. BPA’s conservation program budget provides the funding, and Light Department Director Steve Boorman said the city has historically spent the $10,000 per year on advertising at EWU.

Councilman Doug Nixon asked if the city also has a similar arrangement with Cheney High School, to which Boorman said it does not, and hasn’t received a request from the school district to do so.

“I don’t think we would discourage any reasonable requests (to advertise) from sports at the high school or middle schools,” Boorman said.

John McCallum can be reached at


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