Grappling with growth

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  • SHAWN GUST/Press file. Aerial services provided by Big Country Helicopters and pilot Jim Van Sky. Growth-related issues will be front and center for Kootenai County’s cities and the county in 2018.

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    This is the view of the prairie from Rathdrum's city-owned property on Rathdrum Mountain. The city plans to open the first phase of the 539-acre site for recreational opporunities in 2018. (BRIAN WALKER/Press file photo)

  • SHAWN GUST/Press file. Aerial services provided by Big Country Helicopters and pilot Jim Van Sky. Growth-related issues will be front and center for Kootenai County’s cities and the county in 2018.

  • 1

    This is the view of the prairie from Rathdrum's city-owned property on Rathdrum Mountain. The city plans to open the first phase of the 539-acre site for recreational opporunities in 2018. (BRIAN WALKER/Press file photo)

Here’s a look at the major initiatives area cities and Kootenai County will be wrestling with over the next year.

COEUR d’ALENE

Officials will be focused on the Lake City's ever-expanding population.

"As we know, our city is a wonderful place to live and many people continue to discover that," said Mayor Steve Widmyer. "The management of that growth will be the No. 1 issue not just for 2018, but for several years to come."

The city's top priority is public safety, Widmyer said, and with that, a continuing commitment to excellence as the community grows.

Maintaining the city's roads, managing its traffic and keeping its parks in top shape are important parts of that commitment, he said, along with providing the other services the city's citizens expect like the public library and recreation programs.

"A positive growing community is a good thing," Widmyer said. "Maintaining and protecting the quality of life that we enjoy is what we must accomplish in 2018 and in the years to come."

POST FALLS

The city is updating its Comprehensive Plan to guide future growth and expects to adopt the update by summer, Mayor Ron Jacobson said.

"Economic development will continue to be at the forefront of our planning and activities," he said. "My goal is to see an actual city center in Post Falls and additional development on the west side at the Pointe.

"We need to broaden our tax base to take the burden off the residential properties. We will work with our partners to help our current businesses prosper and expand, to attract new businesses and to create good jobs."

Jacobson said Post Falls is known as a city that’s good to work with for builders and developers and it will continue to try to simplify the building permit process.

"We will also continue our efforts to improve operating efficiency without compromising customer service," he said.

The city is also updating its Traffic Master Plan, which will lead to an updated study of the city’s impact fees that will be charged on new growth.

A city center parking plan is also underway.

"This should enhance the viability of commercial development in this area," Jacobson said.

With wastewater treatment facility upgrades, the city recently submitted its pilot project report to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after spending more than $10 million in improvements to meet regulatory mandates.

"We will continue to update (the facility) in phases to meet the DEQ and EPA requirements," Jacobson said.

Other projects in the works include a new sports complex on the Rathdrum Prairie, the Seltice Way/Mullan Avenue Congestion Study and improvements on Spokane Street from Poleline Avenue to Grange Avenue.

KOOTENAI COUNTY

Kootenai County Commissioner Chris Fillios said the following projects will be the focus in 2018:

• Comprehensive Plan update;

• Jail expansion completion expected for the fall and hiring deputies;

• Landfill expansion completion;

• Implement a software tracking system for court records;

• Economic development efforts to create jobs;

• Addressing an optional building code system; and

• Implementing employee pay increases approved during the last budget cycle.

RATHDRUM

Mayor Vic Holmes said economic development and making Rathdrum as business-friendly as possible will remain the city’s highest priority in 2018.

"Rathdrum wants to continue creating a community where its residents can live, work and play," Holmes said.

The city plans to open the first phase of its 539-acre Rathdrum Mountain property for public recreation opportunities.

The city’s new Urban Renewal Board has started working on the plan for its first urban renewal district, which is expected to be approved by the end of the year.

Other priorities will be long-range planning with area schools, identifying a site for a new park, final upgrades to Majestic Park such as lighting for the sports fields, the pedestrian pathway system, plans for Highways 41 and 53, and updating its Comprehensive Plan.

In 2018 the city will start construction on a regional sewer lift station and complete water well.

Rathdrum recently invested more than $3 million in upgrading and expanding its water distribution and sewer collection systems. Other infrastructure projects are planned in the next year.

"Rathdrum will continue to invest $300,000 to $500,000 toward improving and upgrading our roadway infrastructure," Holmes said.

HAYDEN

The city’s annual growth for the past five years has averaged about 1.6 percent annually, said City Administrator Brett Boyer.

"That has been a manageable rate and (we) anticipate a similar rate of growth continuing for next year," he said.

He said the city will continue planning for future infrastructure, "which is always a challenge to pay for."

"We, like other cities, try to set up fees to have growth pay for growth," Boyer said. "Our city has not put a priority on growing new residential units — although there continues to be demand and growth there — but instead has put more of an emphasis on growing commercial and industrial opportunities. The city saw over 200,000 square feet in new commercial and just over 100,000 square feet in new light industrial last year."

Boyer said maintaining the roads and providing public safety through the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office poses a challenge because of the city's taxing rate. He said the city's leaders are very conservative, but they face funding challenges because the city's levy rate is so low — it has been about $1.28 per $1,000 while other area municipalities are at more than $5 per $1,000.

"That difference makes it hard to fund work on all 160 lane miles of roads and to increase the number of police officers we are paying for," he said. "Currently we fund four (officers) but the county has asked for us to fund seven. We will be looking at ways to address these issues."

Hayden will be working on a new Comprehensive Plan for the city that will coincide and tie in with the Coeur d'Alene Airport's Master Plan, which is underway with Kootenai County. Boyer said Hayden "strongly supports the airport and will work with the county and other entities to work through any planning issues."

As for the North Idaho Building Contractors Association lawsuit against the city of Hayden regarding sewer cap fees, Boyer said the city has appealed the District Court decision and it should be heard by the Idaho Supreme Court in 2018.

"While hopeful for a successful outcome, we will need to deal with any negative result," he said.

The city of Hayden, the county and the Hayden Area Regional Sewer Board will continue plans for the Phase II upgrade for the Sewer Treatment Plan that is jointly owned by aforementioned entities due to primarily federal requirements on the permit for sewer treatment.

"Even with the challenges, Hayden is a wonderful place to live and work and raise a family," Boyer said.

Hayden Mayor Steve Griffitts said Hayden's priorities for the year will focus on its ability to anticipate and prepare for future needs.

"Highway accessibility, sewer availability and law enforcement are key building blocks," Griffitts said. "We must provide professional customer service to our citizens with an emphasis on a balanced growth of industrial/commercial and residential. We are at a great crossroad."

DALTON GARDENS

Dalton Gardens, which had a population of about 2,400 in 2016, is expected to see an increase in commercial and residential building.

"We project that the city of Dalton Gardens will experience a continuation of a large amount of requests for building permits for new homes and remodeling in 2018," said Mayor Steve Roberge. "2017 was extremely busy and 2018 should continue the trend."

This trend will be accompanied by a sewer expansion. Roberge said Dalton will add sewer for commercial businesses from Hanley to Prairie avenues on Government Way in conjunction with the city of Coeur d'Alene's project to widen Government Way to five lanes beginning in the spring.

"This is the second phase of the addition of commercial sewer on Government Way," Roberge said. "Coeur d’Alene has an agreement with Dalton Gardens that allows Dalton Gardens businesses to connect to the city of Coeur d’Alene’s sewer system."

An issue that Dalton has been experiencing and will probably continue to see is the heavy traffic that flows through as people travel from Hayden to Coeur d'Alene and vice versa.

So, a friendly reminder for those driving through Dalton in 2018: Slow down.

"While most vehicles travel at a reasonable speed, we are still seeing many individuals speeding through our city," Roberge said. "The speed limit in Dalton Gardens is 25 miles per hour and is strictly enforced by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. The city is mostly residential and we have a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists that enjoy walking in Dalton Gardens and want them to feel safe as they do so."

ATHOL

Mayor Bob Wachter said the city will work on updating its Comprehensive Plan and has applied for a $50,000 grant to conduct a Transportation Plan.

"We will be notified sometime in March if we are selected, and if awarded, this grant is 100 percent," he said. "No matching funds from the city are necessary.”

A Water Master Plan is nearing completion and a public hearing is expected in February.

"After that, the council will need to decide what the next steps will be to improve the aging infrastructure," Wachter said.

The city is also having a water rate study done by the Idaho Rural Water Association to help the city determine what the rates should be.

Wachter said the city expects to continue to see annexation requests in 2018 and will update the city records retention policy.

"The city’s records were swept under the rug so to speak," he said. "We will be identifying, sorting and cleaning out all types of documents."

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