The city of Coeur d'Alene announced Wednesday that planning has officially begun on a project that will "guide the gradual transformation of a six-mile stretch of land along the Spokane River from Independence Point in downtown Coeur d'Alene, west to Huetter Road."
Land-use planners, engineers, architects and city officials met Monday to discuss a wide range of possibilities for the corridor.
A master plan being developed by Welch Comer Engineers of Coeur d'Alene could involve recreational, commercial and private development uses, as well as numerous opportunities to secure public access to the Spokane River, including the development of trails and parks along the water.
Planning will focus on two sections. The first section - known as the Four Corners Project - runs from Independence Point to the Riverstone development. This 2-mile stretch involves about 40 acres, 29 of which are owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The city is working with the BLM on development of the master plan.
If the BLM accepts the plan - which would generally require that any development provide for public uses - it could lease the property to the city at little or no cost.
The second tract starts at Riverstone and goes west to Huetter. The city is in the process of purchasing 20 lineal acres of abandoned railbed along the Spokane River for $2.5 million. The four-mile stretch is currently owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
Phil Boyd, Welch Comer president, emphasized that the master planning process will include numerous opportunities for public involvement and input, through "small group" meetings, public workshops and informational forums.
The entire stretch of property has high "emotional importance" to stakeholders and dozens of user groups, all of which will have an opportunity to meet with the master plan architects and express their desires. The small groups include North Idaho College, the Fort Grounds Homeowners Association, Museum of North Idaho, the Human Rights Education Institute, the city's bike/pedestrian committee, skateboard activists and many other "singular issue" groups.
Land-use architect Dell Hatch of Welch Comer said officials will focus on the "highest and best use" along the entire length of the master plan area. "And the highest and best use is not necessarily always going to be for recreational purposes," he said.
Adoption of the master plan is anticipated in February 2015.
The Four Corners/BLM Steering Committee is comprised of Boyd; Hatch; Dave Patzer, a member of the city's Parks and Recreation Committee who is also a board member for the Lake City Development Corp. (LCDC); acting Coeur d'Alene Parks Director Bill Greenwood; Coeur d'Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer; Scott Cranston, chairman of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission; Tony Berns, executive director of the LCDC; Coeur d'Alene City Councilmember Amy Evans and architect Dick Stauffer.