Development in the Latah Valley has largely stalled due to concerns over traffic along U.S. Highway 195, but that hasn’t stopped developers from continuing to push for approval of new ones. projects.
The latest proposal, known as Westwood Hills in planning documents, would bring 44 new 12-acre homes to the Grandview / Thorpe neighborhood. It’s on land east of South Scenic Boulevard, south of West 22nd Avenue, and west of Canyon Bluffs and Westwood Lane.
As the city urgently needs more housing, a list of other proposed projects in the area have been blocked, limited or put on conditions after the Washington State Department of Transportation threatened the city with ‘a development moratorium last year due to concerns about safety and the flow of traffic along US Highway 195.
This highway is the predominant way for increasing volumes of cars to travel north and south through the burgeoning valley.
Meanwhile, the Spokane Regional Transportation Council is currently working with the WSDOT, the City of Spokane and other jurisdictions and agencies to conduct a study on how these issues can be addressed.
The most recent project to go through the city’s approval process is a 45-unit development known as Tangle Ridge, located further south, near the end of Tangle Heights Drive.
This project received approval from the city’s hearing reviewer this spring, but construction can only proceed after “a financial commitment is in place … April decision of the city reviewer. ‘hearing.
“This commitment can be defined as an agreement between several developers to finance and build the J-turn within a specified time frame, not to exceed six years, as agreed by city staff and WSDOT,” the decision reads.
When asked if the developer would make such a commitment, Todd Whipple, whose company Whipple Consulting Engineers, Inc. acts as agent for the developer, Tanglewood LLC., Replied yes.
The developer of Westwood Hills isn’t waiting for the city to demand changes to reduce the development’s impact on the region’s roads.
Gary Rogers first outlined his plans for the 12-acre land in February 2020.
When he did, Rogers was strongly repelled by neighbors who were worried about all of those new cars coming and going from the development’s intended single exit and entry into Scenic Drive.
This would have meant that traffic from 44 new homes would have been funneled onto 16th Avenue, the only access street in the Grandview / Thorpe neighborhood.
Joy Sheikh, president of the neighborhood council, said the proposal made people “super unhappy”.
Rogers heard them loud and clear.
“After this meeting I sat down and I wasn’t comfortable with the plan we had come up with and felt like I was asking them to like something I didn’t even like.” Rogers said. “I put myself in that neighborhood and said, ‘I wouldn’t like it either. “
So he went back to the drawing board.
He retained the services of an architect and designer to provide his advice as Rogers reconsidered what he “wanted to accomplish.”
The result is a new proposal that will essentially split the new development into two, those on the northwest side still having to come and go via Scenic Drive, and those on the southeast side to enter and exit via Westwood Drive.
Westwood Drive leads to Thorpe Road, where a J-turn allows cars to head north on US 195 in a relatively safe manner.
For that plan to become a reality, however, Westwood Drive will need to become a public thoroughfare again, some two decades after it was privatized following a dispute between the town of Spokane and the developers of an apartment complex now known as the name of Canyon Bluffs. .
While Rogers acknowledges that there are some “hurdles you need to overcome to fully reach that second access,” he’s optimistic that will eventually happen.
“The city accepted it in their concept, and Canyon Bluffs accepted it in their concept,” Rogers said. “As we go through the i points and t points in the platform approval process, this will eliminate any potential issues and give us the opportunity to resolve them. “
When asked if he expected the changes to satisfy those opposed to the project, Rogers replied, “I have no expectations. I hope they will recognize the effort that has been made.
He also said he hopes people will understand that the project is “an extension of a development that started 40 years ago,” he continued. “So it’s going to develop, and everyone who lives in this neighborhood has known that all this time.”
But Sheikh, the president of the neighborhood council, said her concerns about the project remained.
She said new housing has already sprung up across the neighborhood on disparate lots and larger plots.
They lead to an unbearable level of pressure on a neighborhood of some 200 houses and a single entrance and exit.
This creates a dangerous situation, she said, in the event of a forest fire or any other emergency.
She believes it also poses a threat to the character and wildlife, including moose and bears, that inhabit the area.
“It’s really sad to watch,” Sheikh said.
She admitted, however, that the neighborhood near the city center is the kind of place that in “any other big city would be full of houses” and that “this development is going to happen”.
But she thinks it’s high time the city and WSDOT came up with the necessary infrastructure upgrades to make this happen in a smart and safe way.
Rogers said he has done his best to address neighbors’ concerns while also meeting the city’s inordinate housing demand.
“There is a desperate need for housing,” said Rogers. “We are happy to be able to meet this need. It’s time.”
The revised plan for Westwood Hills will be the subject of a community meeting Monday at 6 pm at Life Springs Fellowship, 4213 W. Garden Springs Rd.