Wanted: Your view of Cd'A's future

City asks citizens to look forward to 2030

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An overview of downtown Coeur d'Alene photographed Wednesday, May 9, 2012. (Helicopter services courtesy of Big Country Helicopter)

COEUR d'ALENE - What would you like Coeur d'Alene to look like in 2030?

Backing up a bit, would you be willing to begin that discussion?

That's what the city of Coeur d'Alene wants to know - whether the community would be interested in sitting down at the planning table to envision how Coeur d'Alene should look by 2030.

Growth may be inevitable, so what should be emphasized or promoted? What should be avoided?

And is the timing even right to launch such a discussion?

Many questions - with as many answers.

"It definitely is an opportunity for people, who might disagree on some items, to sit down and talk about what they want for the future of Coeur d'Alene," said Mike Gridley, city attorney who pitched the idea after visiting Bend, Ore., where the "Bend 2030" vision was adopted in 2005. "The more inclusive this process is, the better. It will fail if it's not a broad, inclusive process."

To determine if such long-range planning could make a good fit in the Lake City, several presentations have been scheduled for next week. They'll be hosted by Steven Ames, a long-range strategic planner who has conducted around 60 sessions for public agencies across the Northwest, Australia, and New Zealand over the last 15 years.

The first presentation, which outlines the process behind embarking on such a visionary mission, will be 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the City Council meeting in the library. Planning includes identifying projects the town could finish in a short time, combined with what it wants as its long-term vision, Ames said. It's capturing "the realistic and idealistic" values surrounding an area.

"It can be very powerful. Like any place, organization and city, people tend to fight over things, lock horns over details instead of holding" onto a bigger vision, he said. "You begin to change some of those working relationships. That can be a very powerful thing."

Next week's meetings, however, won't start drawing up what Coeur d'Alene will look like in 2030.

Instead, they'll ask stakeholders, the City Council and the public if they're interested in starting the planning process. On Wednesday, Feb. 6, a presentation will be pitched to stakeholders over breakfast. Then, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. that afternoon will be a public meeting at the Lake City Center, 1916 N. Lakewood Drive, followed by another from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Coeur d'Alene Eagles, 209 E. Sherman Ave.

If the community wants to start planning, the process itself could last several months.

In Bend, for example, more than 5,700 people had participated in the 11-month visioning phase of the process, according to reports there.

The idea also comes on the heels of The Cd'A 2020 visioning project that began in 2000. That plan outlined recreational opportunities, improved infrastructure and educational opportunities as goals. McEuen Park, the educational corridor and Kroc Center are recent examples of some of those achievements.

But some think the timing is wrong.

Mary Souza, a critic of City Hall who writes an online newsletter on local topics, was invited to the stakeholder breakfast Wednesday, but is declining.

She said the multi-million McEuen Park project, as favored by half the City Council and Mayor Sandi Bloem, ignored the public's desire for the future fate of the green space. A better time to start planning will be after the November election, she said, when the future City Council is set.

"True visioning takes trust, and there is a serious lack of that commodity in our town right now," she emailed The Press.

Frank Orzell, the organizer behind the unsuccessful recall effort against Bloem and three other incumbents, echoed Souza's opinion.

Orzell was also invited to the stakeholder breakfast, an invitation with which he was "favorably impressed." He too said the timing is off in light of the elections and yet-to-be-completed McEuen Field project.

"I think there's too much on the plate right now," he said. "I think we should finish some of the stuff we've started."

But Dan Gookin, a city councilman who opposed the McEuen Field project, said regardless of political leanings, it should be important for the community to come together and identify what it would like to change, or plan. The recall effort magnified a rift in the town, but the town should move forward together, he said. Waiting for a year to engage doesn't effect positive change.

"I really wish people would be willing to come together," said Gookin, who voted in favor of the community exploring the idea. "To be able to sit down and break bread together would be awesome."

The cost for Ames is $6,000, a third of which will be paid by the city with the remaining being covered by stakeholder donations, Gridley said.

In a press release Monday announcing the meetings, Bloem said that while progress has been made, it's important for the community not to rest on its laurels.

Tyler Jacobson, 22, out on a walk near midtown Monday, said he would like to see Coeur d'Alene continue to develop arts, entertainment and public space for the community while attracting small businesses.

The "smallish" town has done a nice job of that so far, he said, so don't quit now.

"I think we're heading in the right direction," he said.

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