Person purchased

City, school board reach agreement to sell park

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Coeur d'Alene city councilmen Woody McEvers, left, and Ron Edinger listen as Mike Gridley reads a letter Thursday regarding the history of Person Field ownership at a negotiation meeting between the Coeur d’Alene City council and Coeur d'Alene school board trustees.

COEUR d'ALENE - Deal.

After months of negotiating, the city of Coeur d'Alene and School District 271 agreed Thursday to a deal for the school district's half of Person Field, all but guaranteeing the public space popular for Coeur d'Alene Junior Tackle Football will remain as it is.

And Bryan Field, the roughly 2-acre park off 10th Street, is a part of the package deal that aims to sell both public spaces owned by the school district to the city for between $655,000 and $750,000.

It feels "very good," School Superintendent Hazel Bauman said following the public meeting where both sides sat down to hammer out a deal that had stalled in recent weeks, calling the solution "a win-win." "We don't want to be in the parks business, we need the cash, and they're in the parks business."

The deal isn't set in stone, yet.

The school district will have to have a statutorily-required appraisal on Bryan Field before it can part with it. That could take two or three weeks, school district officials said. But the city promised to pay at least $655,000 for the lands, and that's the appraised amount the school district sought for its half of Person Field. Pending the appraisal on Bryan Field, listed around $228,537 with Kootenai County, the city said it could consider bumping it up to $750,000 for both.

Both boards unanimously supported the terms, though official action will be needed as the final details are set.

"It's great," Mayor Sandi Bloem said following the nearly two-hour meeting, calling the end of negotiations a relief. "A deal was made that was absolutely the right one for the community and that's what it's all about."

It also simplifies a transaction that had been clouded in recent weeks.

Leading up to the public meeting - a meeting the City Council called to which the School Board agreed - both sides disagreed on the true value of the 3.8-acre parcel of Person Field owned by the district. The city thought it should have been valued at a Residential 1 zoning, which is what park land is, and not R-12 zoning, which it's actually zoned.

That disagreement in zoning led to a discrepancy in how each viewed Person Field's true value, with the city believing it was worth around half the $655,000 figure. That prompted the city to offer the $655,000, but with added contingencies like increased use for its recreation department in school gyms to bridge what it saw as a financial gap. The school district had countered that offer with one that listed the value of resources the district provides or would be willing to provide the city, such as school resource officers.

Those differing offers laid the groundwork for Thursday's meeting, where both sides said trying to add the value of shared resources to any potential land deal was sidetracking progress. Both sides agreed to address Joint Use agreements between the entities and SRO officer issues separately down the line - setting the table for a straight land for cash transaction.

"It's probably impossible to quantify the intersection," Bauman said of the resources the entities share. "They are so many ... and so rich."

After the deal was agreed upon, applause from the approximately 100 people in the public library broke out. The deal means that Person Field, half of which the city already owns, will remain intact. The park off 15th Street is where junior tackle footballers play. Had an agreement not been reached, the school board planned on selling it though a sealed bid process, meaning anyone could have made an offer. Under its R-12 zoning, the parcel could have been developed at 12 units an acre.

"I like that," Matthew Lucas, a 10-year-old football player, said after the deal was announced. "They're not going to build houses on the field."

Bryan Field is owned by the school district but not utilized by it, the school board said, making it a non-performing asset that would be better off in the city's hands. The money from the deal will go toward a new administration building the school district is planning to construct.

After the meeting, members from both entities mingled, talked and said they were pleased with the outcome. Leading up the meeting, each entity had been publicly critical of components of the other side's offer.

"Hip, hip, hooray," Councilman Woody McEvers said as the deal was reached.

And the bumps in the road during the negotiation won't change the working relationship between the entities, Bauman added.

"I don't think having a disagreement means the end to that," she said.

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