No recommendation on business park rezone

Cheney Planning Commission declines to vote on changing designation to allow for a self-storage facility

CHENEY — The proposed rezone of the city’s Industrial and Commerce Park could head to an upcoming City Council meeting — but without an approval from the city Planning Commission.

At a May 10 public hearing, the city proposal to change the 36-acre park from its current Business Park (BP) zoning to Light Industrial (I-L) failed to receive a vote after none of the members offered to second to Commissioner Dan Hillman’s motion to vote on the proposal. Some of the issues that likely led to the none-vote were impacts to surrounding neighborhoods and businesses, the optics of self-storage facilities on either end of the city’s two main points of entry and the existence of plenty of properly zoned land to allow for the reason the rezone was being considered in the first place.

If passed, the rezone would permit additional types of development in the park — including a proposed 6.3-acre, 340-space self-storage facility not allowed under the current BP designation.

Senior planner Brett Lucas said during his presentation that rezoning the park would likely necessitate amendments to the Light Industrial zone standards as well. One big reason for this is under the I-L zone, structures up to 85 feet tall are allowed.

Lucas pointed to the ADM Mills facility and the grain elevator downtown as examples of this and why most of the city’s Light Industrial land is located along the railroad tracks. Unless changed to require some staggered heights towards the edges of the Light Industrial zone, the same could take place in the Industrial and Commerce Park — which is bordered by single-family residences in the Salnave area.

“There is the potential you could have tall buildings in this zone on the northern periphery and near Pineview (Street),” Lucas said. He added

Commissioner Rick Mount asked about decibel restrictions within the two zones, and Lucas said Light Industrial allowed for more noise intensive uses as part of its purpose. Commissioner David Early pointed to the existence of self-storage facilities at both entrances to the city on State Route 904, and questioned whether more in those areas are needed.

“With self-storage bookending our town, is this really the best use of the land?” he asked.

Early also pointed to the staff report and recommendation to the commission referencing nine comprehensive plan policies for development “related to the project proposal” such as expanding the number of local, living-wage jobs; support growth and recruitment of industries complementing existing Cheney businesses and protecting industrial land uses from other conflicting uses.

“Based on the goals and policies listed above, this ‘zone change’ from Business Park to Light Industrial does not meet the overall intent of the Comprehensive Plan,” staff wrote in the document, taking a neutral position on recommending the change.

The park was built in 2010 for $3.8 million, the majority in federal funding, and is a partnership with the city and AllPak Trojan, the packaging manufacturer situated in the southeast corner of the park with the city owning 60% of the parcels, most located west of Fred Johns Way. The city has attempted over the years to find tenants for the facility, but without success.

Mount asked Lucas earlier in the discussion if it was known how long it takes for business parks to begin attracting interest and tenants, and where in that “life cycle” Cheney’s park is. Lucas said there wasn’t a definitive answer to that question, noting right now, many businesses seeking to locate on the West Plains are doing so on land closer to Spokane International Airport, and it might be a matter of those spaces filling up first before eyes are turned to Cheney.

“If we’re potentially approaching what could be its prime, and we’ve allowed it to be rezoned into something else, are we going to be losing out on an opportunity to meet some of these parts of our master plan and our municipal code that we referenced in here?” Early asked.

Commissioner Natasha Jorstad asked how much light industrial land was available in the city, and Lucas pointed to a number of vacant areas located along the railroad tracks and portions of the north end of Cheney as all available for use.

The rezone comes because of a discussion taking place around an agreement in August 2019 with a local group to lease parcels in the park for potential business ventures. At the time, two uses for the land were discussed: a professional development/business incubator facility and a self-service storage complex.

During a March 9, 2020 council meeting, Cheney Mayor Chris Grover admitted he negotiated the lease agreement with MVP out of excitement for having someone finally interested in doing business in the park, not realizing the zoning prohibited self-storage facilities.

One of the partners in MVP Properties is JC Steel Targets owner and Planning Commission Member Jake Vibbert. JC Steel Targets recently built an expanded facility in the Industrial and Commerce Park, and Vibbert did not take part in the discussion or vote at the commission’s May 10 meeting.

While the Planning Commission took no action on the rezone, the issue could still end up in front of the City Council for consideration.

John McCallum can be reached at [email protected].

Author Bio

John McCallum, Retired editor

John McCallum is an award-winning journalist who retired from Cheney Free Press after more than 20 years. He 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.


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