Atlas purchase is nothing like McEuen

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Let’s call it Neuecm Park.

Yep; that’s McEuen backward. With Coeur d’Alene’s commitment to purchase riverfront property and convert much of it to a park-like setting, we may be witnessing the makings of McEuen in reverse.

THEN: The community fractured over what to do with the hunk of land in downtown Coeur d’Alene that had been largely underutilized for decades. The city’s answer was a park conversion that would cost about $20 million — and bring along unprecedented public anxiety that peaked with an attempted recall drive of the mayor and council members in 2012.

NOW: The city has agreed to spend $7.85 million on 47 acres along the Spokane River just west of Riverstone that was once a mill site and is now considered a brownfield. Part of the property, which includes a half-mile of waterfront land, will be for public recreation. The rest will be resold, ostensibly for development.

Then we had a civic fight unlike any the community had seen for years, and possibly ever.

Now? Crickets, at least from any critics.

Maybe this is just too good a deal all the way around and, therefore, it enjoys unanimous support. The fact that not a single challenger is pursuing a seat on the City Council suggests rather strongly that the citizenry is satisfied these days, so perhaps buying the old Atlas mill site isn’t an eyebrow raiser, let alone an earth shaker of McEuen magnitude.

Most certainly, though, there are many questions that need to be answered between now and the transaction closing date of next May 16. Key among them is, how is it going to be paid for?

The city’s urban renewal agency head and its finance director both have expressed general support but qualified it somewhat with concerns about slow paybacks and potential cash flow problems. Asking voters to approve a general obligation bond is one pressure-easing possibility — for the city, but not the taxpayers.

Another key question is, how ready is the property for use and development? Indications are good that there are no pressing environmental concerns, but the city’s agreement to purchase the land included an “as-is” provision. If, somehow, major remediation is needed, that will be the city’s — read, the taxpayers’ — responsibility.

Fortunately, city leaders are promising plenty of public opportunities for community members to ask questions and share their opinions, particularly about how the property will eventually be divided. We look forward to that but won’t be terribly surprised if they hold open houses and public forums and only the crickets show up.

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