It took about two minutes of mid-level Googling to summarize our feelings about conditional-use permits and zoning variances. We’re doing it with a pithy quote which, as editors, we hate and as readers you no doubt loathe as well.
We choose to use it anyway.
As Katharine Hepburn once said: “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”
Well, Moscow and Pullman, get ready for some fun.
Twice in the past week, the idea of skirting the rules to accommodate progress has surfaced.
In Moscow, zoning code requires that a three-story 1912 Center — with each floor developed and open for business — would require 180 designated parking spaces.
Heart of the Arts, Inc., the nonprofit that manages the center, requested instead to provide the existing 67 parking spaces and no more.
The Moscow Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the variance, one member calling the building a “jewel.”
If and when fundraising for the building allows for the completion of the top two floors, it is unlikely every inch of the building will be in use at one time. We get that.
If that does happen, however, it’s apparently assumed renters will be willing and able to coordinate alternative parking in nearby city lots or churches. Barring those agreements, the consensus seems to be that visitors will gladly park in nearby neighborhoods and walk several blocks or more to their event.
At least one neighbor who spoke at the meeting was cool with that prospect, given the number of high school students who already park in the area during the day, and churchgoers who fill the streets on Sundays. Neighbors are used to it, so no big deal.
Meanwhile, in Pullman, a California developer is looking to build a 13-story apartment building on five acres on the intersection of Bishop Boulevard and Johnson Avenue. The building will contain 274 apartments, 685 bedrooms, add 2,700 vehicle trips per day to nearby roads. It also will require a conditional-use permit to become reality.
The city allows one dwelling per every 1,000 square feet, which means 213 apartments would be allowed at the location, not 274.
Technically, seeking a zoning variance or applying for a conditional-use permit is following the rules. The variances and permits are designed to accommodate the exceptions to the rule.
But when the shiny fades and the bloom is off the rose, will everyone involved still be having fun?
If the 1912 Center becomes a mecca, and big events are scheduled on school days or Sunday mornings, will neighbors and rental customers be so dismissive of the potential parking issues?
Will the Pullman project stress nearby roads to the point of decay, or local commuters to the point of frustration? Will the density of the proposed Pullman apartments cause neighborhood parking issues like those seen at two other recent student apartment complex projects on the Palouse?
Those are questions everyone involved should know the answer to before these variances are approved.
— Craig Staszkow, for the editorial board