Bloem would step aside on high-rise issue

Developer Greg Hills has worked with mayor's son, Kurt Lundblad

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COEUR d'ALENE - If a group of concerned citizens appeals a commission's approval of a proposed downtown high-rise to the City Council, Mayor Sandi Bloem said Thursday she would recuse herself from the process.

Bloem's son, Century 21 real estate agent Kurt Lundblad, has a personal and professional relationship with Colorado developer Greg Hills, who is proposing to build a 14-story apartment building on First Street and Lakeside Avenue.

"I don't know by law if I would have to, but I absolutely would recuse myself just by appearance, because my son is involved," Bloem said.

Lundblad helped facilitate Hills' purchase of the Mudge building where the proposed development would go, and could help market apartments in the future, Hills told The Press Thursday. The two have known each other since around 2002, and Lundblad, who has visited Hills in his hometown Aspen, Colo., has facilitated other real estate transactions for Hills as well.

"I want to be open and honest about it - we do have a friendship," said Hills, principal of real estate development firm Austin Lawrence Partners. "On the same token, I really respect Kurt as a real estate broker. I'm proud to be associated with him in a professional way as well."

The company has said it wants to break ground on an approximately $20 million, 125,000-square-foot project at 201 N. First St. in the spring. Before it can, developers must receive approval from the city's Design Review Commission ensuring the project adheres to building guidelines. So far, the commission has said the plans are passing inspection. The third and likely final meeting between the developers and the design commission is scheduled for noon Thursday, Nov. 1, in the Old Council Chambers at City Hall, 710 E. Mullan Ave.

The proposal has drawn opposition from some neighbors who live nearby. Residents in the adjacent Coeur d'Alene North Condominiums and Lake Tower condos have said they'll sue to stop the building from going up. With a loss of a lake view and sunlight, they say their property values would be hurt if the high-rise is built. The Design Review Commission has an obligation, as stated in its mission statement, to protect their property rights and values, too, they've said.

But if the design commission green-lights the building design Nov. 1, the decision can be appealed to the City Council. The council would have to consider the appeal on its design merits only.

Attorney Scott Reed, who is representing the concerned neighbors, said he is prepared for litigation if it goes that route, but is unsure whether they would appeal the commission's decision to the City Council.

If they do, Bloem said she would "certainly" recuse herself.

"I've been very upfront and honest about this," she said. "My son Kurt has had a very good and professional relationship with Greg ... I've told people that."

Hills has known Bloem for around five or six years, he said, adding that she hasn't been involved in any way during his purchase of the property or the application to build the building.

"She's absolutely not offered any assistance," he said.

Lundblad couldn't be reached for comment Thursday. Hills said Lundblad could be involved in the project if it gets off the ground.

"I would expect him to have some involvement in the building in some capacity going forward," Hills said. "That's what I would hope for, but I don't know what he's going to be doing in five years."

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