City, ignite cda plan land swap

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RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press The city hopes to gain more than an acre near City Hall at the base of Tubbs Hill as part of a land trade for railroad right-of-way at Riverstone.

COEUR d’ALENE — A brown privacy fence separates the acre-and-a-half building site from a city parking lot near the southeast base of Tubbs Hill.

A few locust trees, a birch and maple brush their limbs over the side of the fence.

Anyone who peeks around the fence or follows a footpath through the shaded property, which will soon be acquired by the city in a land trade, may encounter a flock of turkeys and a little taste of the solace.

The city will give up more than an acre of former railroad right-of-way it owns along the Centennial Trail at Riverstone to complete the land trade, which won’t become official until after the city hears from the

public at an Oct. 3 hearing.

But talk of the trade made a splash at last week’s City Council meeting.

“We would gain valuable property to put a trailhead at Tubbs Hill that would be much more utilized by the public,” Monte McCully, the city’s trail coordinator, said. “In exchange for 60 feet of right-of-way ... that’s basically weeds that we mow four or five times a year.”

Owned by ignite cda, Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal agency, and valued at $960,000, the land on the southeast edge of Tubbs was considered by the city as a coveted parcel. If purchased, it could expand the city’s 165-acre wooded sanctuary at Tubbs Hill.

After several months of negotiations earlier this year, plans to acquire the land by the city fizzled and ignite cda was preparing to market the land, ignite cda executive director Tony Berns said.

That’s when an alternative plan gelled.

Ignite cda owns 60 feet of its own right of way at Riverstone — once Burlington Northern railbed — adjacent to the Union Pacific Santa Fe line that is owned by the city and has been converted to the Centennial Trail.

Combining both rights-of-way at Tilford Lane in Riverstone would result in a 120-foot swath — totaling about 1.5 acres that is big enough to develop.

Once it’s combined, the value of the newly joined property is approximately $1 million.

“It’s very valuable to ignite cda. It’s not that valuable to us,” McCully said.

The plan includes moving a short piece of the Centennial Trail around the newly joined parcel.

“We’d be putting a little jog in the trail,” McCully said.

The trade benefits the public twice, according to the landholders.

Ignite cda may use its acquisition as a future funding source for public projects, and the city gains public ground.

“We wanted to somehow find a way to keep that in the public hands, and we wanted to find a way to make ignite whole,” Mayor Steve Widmyer said. “This was an idea that was hatched that we think will accomplish that.”

By setting the October hearing, the City Council last week showed it planned to move forward with the land deal.

“There will be a lot of opportunity for discussion and a lot of opportunity for input,” Widmyer said.

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