The city of Harrison has been cleared for a growth spurt.
The Harrison City Council voted 4 to 1 last Wednesday to annex Powderhorn Ranch LLC's nearly 2,000 acres on Powderhorn Peninsula. The vote will allow the Seattle-based company to develop a private resort community on the southeast end of Lake Coeur d'Alene that could include golf courses, equestrian areas, retail, a theater, hotels and up to 1,300 residential units.
Mayor Wanda Irish wrote in an e-mail that the city had worked hard on the annexation agreement, and the council feels the development would benefit the city down the road.
"The council was ready to decide the issue last week because of the extensive and hard work they have been putting into it," Irish wrote. "Powderhorn Ranch will bring economic diversity to Harrison and improve the city's fiscal outlook."
The development will look the same as it was first proposed, she added, because of the quality of Powderhorn's original proposal.
The annexation has been a long time coming, said Powderhorn Vice President Rand Wichman.
The development company has been pursuing the project for years, facing numerous hearings, a lawsuit and applications with two government entities.
"Obviously we are very pleased with the council's decision," Wichman wrote in an e-mail. "With this decision, the city of Harrison will see substantial revenue growth, and be able to address the infrastructure and budgetary challenges that they are currently facing."
City Council member William Butler cast the lone vote of opposition against the annexation.
"I don't think it (the Powderhorn development) should be private. I think it should be open to the public," Butler said on Monday.
Still, he said, he hopes that it might help the city, which has a current population of roughly 300.
"Possibly (it could have) some positive economic impacts," Butler said.
The development agreement between the city and company states that Powderhorn Ranch will pay the city $300,000 over the next 10 years to fund a public trail and park.
The developer must pay $50,000 within 90 days that the annexation ordinance is published, and another $50,000 on or before Sept. 1, 2011. The rest will be paid annually in $25,000 installments, offset by property taxes.
Bev Twillmann, Harrison resident who has long protested the development and feels the land is better suited for agriculture, said she was frustrated by the council's decision.
"It's a very foolish move," Twillmann said. "Nothing makes sense. No bank is loaning on anything. Who is going to buy these homes?"
The council also voted 3 to 2 to pass an agreement with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe resolving a dispute over a prior extension of the city's boundaries over a portion of tribal submerged lands.
The dispute would have prevented the Powderhorn annexation.
The agreement eliminated the prior extension except for an area of consent near the mouth of the Coeur d'Alene River, which will remain under the Tribe's jurisdiction. If another contiguous piece of land is found connecting the peninsula to Harrison, the area of consent will be withdrawn.
Tribal spokesman Marc Stewart said the tribe had no comment on the Powderhorn development.
"The city has agreed to (give) the Tribe notice of any developments on the Powderhorn peninsula," Stewart wrote in an e-mail.
Council members Butler and Ron Elliott voted against the tribal agreement.
The wording was too broad, Butler said.
Council member Rich Lund was out of town on a fishing trip and could not be reached for comment. Council member Russell Riberich declined to comment, and the other council members did not return phone calls.
Wichman did not respond to messages about when development on the peninsula would start, though the development agreement states the construction will be phased over many years.
The development agreement lists several permitted and special uses for the Powderhorn property, including: single and multi-family dwellings, retail, hotels and motels, community docks, professional offices, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, convenience stores, spas and fitness centers, a 500-seat theater, churches, a heliport and equestrian homes.
At least 40 percent of the property, or 712 acres, will be reserved as open space.
The developer is tasked with creating a nonprofit owners' association and CC&Rs, which the city is not responsible for enforcing.
The property will be included in Harrison's municipal water system.
The initial term of the development agreement is set for 12 years, to be extended another five years when a preliminary plat is submitted.
If the city doesn't approve a plat within the first extension term, the agreement will be terminated.
The developer must meet with a Harrison representative yearly to review progress on the project.
Powderhorn has been pursuing the development for about four years. It originally attempted a zone change through Kootenai County, but those efforts stalled from a lawsuit that lasted through 2009.
During that period, Powderhorn started negotiations to annex into Harrison.
Twillmann is unsure if the council's elimination of the prior boundary extension is legal, she added.
She is meeting with lawyers this week, she said, but isn't sure what will come of it.
"We're weighing our legal options," she said. "Nobody wants to go forward into a long-term lawsuit that would cost everyone a bunch of time and money and not settle until we're all dead and gone."