I recently attended a Spokane Valley meeting that discussed issues concerning the Spokane Valley Comprehensive Plan. The purpose and the objective of the Valley Comprehensive Plan is to present a blueprint of a 20-year vision for the Spokane Valley.
The draft City Vision is as follows: "Spokane Valley: a community of opportunity where families and individuals can grow and play and businesses will flourish and prosper." The Comprehensive Plan includes issues of land use, transportation, capital facilities, housing, private utilities, parks and recreation, economic development and natural environment.
As with any plan, there are a number of influences that contribute to its creation. The influences of the Spokane Valley Comprehensive Plan are the City Council, citizens, business and property owners, regional coordinating entities, state agencies and, last but not least, the Planning Commission.
There were approximately 90 people who attended this particular Spokane Valley meeting, but considering the size of the community it indicated a very poor showing. I don't find fault with the citizens but rather put the blame at the doorsteps of the organizers. The notification of this particular meeting left a lot to be desired: Out of about 40,000 people, only 500 people in our community were notified.
In any event, the people who were in attendance were divided into several groups of about a dozen people per table. We were instructed to discuss urgent issues that we felt passionately about -- if for no other reason than to vent our concerns about what direction Spokane Valley is going in. The results of these discussions also enabled the Community Development Department an opportunity to hear what matters to those individuals whose livelihoods would be directly affected.
Each group spent about half an hour discussing an array of issues and concerns. Even while attending the meeting with my own agenda, I was amazed at the number and variety of concerns that weighed heavily on each individual.
Each group listed a number of issues concerning the city as well as the neighborhoods that they passionately felt needed at least the attention of a discussion. Some of the more significant issues voiced by the people in attendance included the aquifer, public notification of meetings, utilizing the ever-increasing number of vacant buildings, improving and increasing the number of parks, inconsistency of the zoning laws, outlawing transients on our street corners, growth management, sidewalks and bike lanes on the roadways, code enforcement, population density, taxes, the proposed light rail system and the thorn in some people's side, the Sprague Avenue Couplet.
The neighborhood issues included street lighting; speed limits; the rights of owners of large animals such as cows, horses and llamas; lack of road repairs; infrastructure; safety; and law enforcement. I found the discussions to be heated at times but also invigorating. You could sense the energized passion in the room.
One issue in particular -- the prospect of extending the Sprague Avenue Couplet -- ignited considerable interest. It was mentioned during the course of the discussions that a recent poll to gather opinions regarding the extension of the couplet had some problems. Apparently it was a telephone survey in which 500 people were called, but only 350 of those called actually consented to the survey. Businesses were not part of the phone survey -- which seems odd, considering that many of those would be most affected.
Spokane Valley needs your help. Residents need to stand up and be counted; our opinions do matter. Should you wish to address your comments in writing, you can do so at email@example.com. The city's Web site is www.spokanevalley.org. More important, if you want to make a direct impact on what direction Spokane Valley is going in the next 20 years, attend the next planning meeting. Watch the Web site for July and August meeting times and locations.
To repeat a couple of well-worn phrases, "the best way to predict the future is to invent it," and "failing to plan is planning to fail." We the people need to be recognized, which requires our participation in the political process. Without our input of ideas, we'll be subjected to changes that might not be conducive to the lifestyle that we have come to be comfortable and familiar with.