By John McCallum
Managing Editor 

Cheney proposes occupancy code changes

Water conservation measures also being proposed through possible monetary incentives


Last updated 2/6/2020 at 10:17am

CHENEY – A public hearing has been set for March 9 on changes to a pair of ordinances, one addressing residential occupancy issues and the other designed to encourage water conservation.

Both ordinances changes acome after repeated concerns from citizens. The most vocal has been the issue of residential occupancy, specifically the concept of “functional family” and how that definition impacts such things as parking and noise complaints in neighborhoods.

According to the Notice of Application from the city publishing the proposed changes, most of the occupancy language in the current code is removed. In its place, the city is instead requiring adherence to federal and state fair housing laws while adopting the International Property Maintenance Code standards for minimum per person area requirements “for bedrooms as well as overcrowding.”

Cheney senior planner Brett Lucas said the city is looking specifically at sections 404.4 and 404.5 in the international code’s chapter four. The first requires every living room to contain not less than 120 square feet and every bedroom not less than 70 square feet with every room occupied by more than one person not being less than 50 square feet of floor space for each occupant.

Kitchens and nonhabitable spaces are prohibited from occupancy, with bedrooms required to comply with “applicable provisions” of the code pertaining to specific lighting, ventilation and other standards. The second section, 404.5, addresses minimum area requirements where allowing occupancy below the minimum would be considered overcrowding and subjecting the residents — or landlords — to some form of penalty.

Comments at past Planning Commission meetings from commissioners and residents has implied that a number of single-family homes being rented in Cheney are being done under the pretense that they will be occupied by a specific number of individuals, only to have more people than listed move in.

With regards to water, changes to the city’s code chapter for regulating landscaping inserts new language encouraging the use of “xeriscape,” a type of landscaping that requires little or no irrigation and often incorporates local dryland vegetation. The new language would also allow for creation of a rebate program for the purpose of encouraging conservation through landscaping or low impact irrigation systems.

Funding for the program would be included in each year’s budget with the amounts not specified but enough “deemed appropriate given the relevant budgetary and water conservation context. Lucas said the city currently has no timeline on installation and funding of the incentive program.

“We are hoping the money comes from the (water) rate increase we approved last year,” he said. “It could take 4-5 years to build up the fund.”

Information on the proposed code changes is available by contacting Lucas at Citizen comments will be accepted through Monday, Feb. 10, by 5 p.m.

John McCallum can be reached at

Author Bio

John McCallum, Managing Editor

John McCallum is an award-winning journalist who has been with the Cheney Free Press for over 20 years. He has received 10 Washington Newspaper Publisher Association awards for journalism and photography, including first place awards for Best Investigative, Best News and back-to-back awards in Best Breaking News categories. He has been serving as editor of the Spokane Valley News Herald since March 2020.

Phone: 509-235-6184
Contact John McCallum


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