Growing, growing, but small-town feel not gone

Post Falls grew 60 percent during past decade to 27,574

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POST FALLS - Jennifer Elliott took a break from her walk along the Centennial Trail on Friday to ponder Post Falls' growth during the past decade.

She was "astounded" the city - her "happy medium" hometown between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene - grew 60 percent to 27,574 people in 2010, according to the Idaho Labor Department. The population is an increase of 10,327 from 2000.

"I can't believe that it's grown so much," Elliott said. "But it still feels like a small town. As long as it stays that way, I'll be content here. There's also a lot to enjoy such as the river, parks and trails. As long as it doesn't end up wall-to-wall housing ... "

Post Falls' growth rate easily outpaces all the other cities in Kootenai County. The spurt moved the city from the 12th-largest in Idaho to 10th.

"As the gateway to North Idaho, our city remains committed to welcoming all who are looking for a great place to raise a family, to get involved, to make a living and to give back as they are able," said Jerry Lyon of Community 1st Bank, who is involved in the Post Falls Food Bank, his church and Kiwanis.

"We have an outstanding balance of long-time residents working alongside relatively new folks where historical successes are integrated with new ideas."

Lyon said Post Falls has room to grow both to the north and west, making it well-positioned for the future.

"It is that ability to expand our footprint over the next many years that makes Post Falls unique," he said.

Mayor Clay Larkin said he knew Post Falls had grown at a reasonable clip, but he didn't believe it was 60 percent.

"We may have more than 27,000 people, but people still say 'hello' to each other in the store," Larkin said.

Most of the city's growth occurred during the middle of the decade before the recession.

"We had years where we were issuing 400 to 500 single-family building permits," Larkin said. "Right now we're only issuing one and a half per week on average."

Larkin said gradual, not rampant, growth is good.

"If you grow 8 to 10 percent like we did some of the years you fall behind in infrastructure," he said.

Larkin said city's recruiting focus lately has been on attracting new businesses to create jobs.

"We're pushing really hard for more businesses, which will attract jobs, which will bring economic development," he said.

Larkin said that while he expects more commercial activity in the coming years, especially once the Beck Road interchange is built, he doesn't foresee large population spikes.

"I believe we're looking at 7,000 to 8,000 people in the next decade, if that," he said.

Police Chief Scot Haug said he believes the city having one of the lowest crime rates in the area is among the factors that makes it an attractive place to live.

"Post Falls has always been known as a safe, friendly place to live, work and play and I think that has contributed greatly to the growth in our community," Haug said.

Alan Wolfe, branch manager at Spokane Teachers Credit Union who is on the planning commission and active in the community, said he notices a high number of Web-based jobs when new bank accounts are opened.

"With more jobs allowing people to work from anywhere, Post Falls is an easy choice with it's high quality of life," Wolfe said.

He said Post Falls also provides a large supply of relatively inexpensive land.

"This is made available as farm ground and is converted to building lots," Wolfe said. "Not only is it less expensive than other land, it is easily converted to subdivisions because there are fewer natural obstacles like rocks and trees."

Post Falls has also a been a smart choice for families and retirees.

"Other areas of the country were becoming less desirable due to higher housing prices and more restrictive business regulation," Wolfe said. "People here could find a good job with more affordable housing and the natural amenities that many people desire."

City Administrator Eric Keck said the city tries to respond to the needs of the community as it has done with last year's citizen survey.

"We continue to make adjustments with programs and services in response to feedback received from the public and it is our desire to continue to this as we grow into the future," he said.

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