McEuen moves ahead

City Council votes 5-1 to adopt conceptual plan

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Jeff Tyler and his wife Pam hold up signs with others protesting the McEuen Field proposal Tuesday during a special meeting of the Coeur d'Alene City Council.

COEUR d'ALENE - The metamorphosis of McEuen Field may begin.

The Coeur d'Alene City Council adopted a large scale conceptual plan Tuesday night to redevelop the 15-acre downtown waterfront park but dropped any changes to Tubbs Hill in the process.

The vote, 5-1, came just after 10:30 p.m., after roughly three hours of public testimony during the special call meeting.

"It's our responsibility," said Deanna Goodlander, councilwoman, "to look to the future."

Council members Mike Kennedy, John Bruning, Al Hassell and Woody McEvers also voted in favor of the plan. The lone opposer, Council President Ron Edinger, outlined his stance before the public even lined up to speak.

"I'm in total opposition," he read from a statement to an applauding, whistling, sign-waving crowd of just over 300 people during the meeting's first hour.

"Has this council already made their decision," he asked, and "brought the public here to pacify them?"

The meeting - as many of the McEuen meetings have been since January - was at times contentious. Mayor Sandi Bloem asked the crowd not to yell at the council, and to curtail booing and outbursts, which is how reaction was heading during the first hour.

"Outbursts are just not respectable," Bloem said. "We will not dare yell out at you" when members of the public speak to the council during public comment.

In the end, the council favored the conceptual plan as a vision for the future. Kennedy called it one of the toughest votes he's made since joining the council in 2005, and had been told he'd lose votes next election should he vote the plan through.

"It's sad to hear," he said, "but I don't care."

The plan calls for one level of underground parking along Front Avenue, and a majority of the amenities, from a pedestrian-friendly Fourth Street to a skate park and bocce ball courts - the latter two coming along later as funding becomes identified.

Overall, price estimates range between $15 million and $39 million, from its footprint to an all-built out park with replacement facilities, like the vacating baseball field and boat launch moving elsewhere.

Support and opposition was similar to what it had been at previous meetings. Dozens of citizens lined up to address the council.

Opponents said it was too expensive a plan, proposed at an inopportune time that would change Coeur d'Alene to a theme park destination, and didn't represent the desires of the community.

Supporters said the council had to represent the voice of the city's future generations.

"We're asking you to represent those people," said Bob McDonald, on putting the plan in place, "because this isn't going to happen overnight."

Others said it was a done deal from the get go since so much studying and planning had already gone into drawing up the park.

Over the three hours of testimony, Rebecca Priano, accompanied by a guitar, even sang a parody of the Joni Mitchell song, "Big Yellow Taxi." The song with lyrics about paving paradise for a parking lot was actually referenced both in support and against the plan.

State Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene, said she is requesting the Idaho Attorney General to determine whether a conflict of interest exists for officials since several had ties to property or businesses downtown.

Others saw the McEuen proposal as a high-rise for the privileged.

"It's for high-rollers so they can entertain their guests," said Ron Dayton. "They want all the waterfront. . . How selfish is that?"

The crowd thinned as testimony continued, and reaction to speakers became more subdued. By the time the vote came through, less than half the crowd remained. The total meeting time was more than four and a half hours. The plan was at the council's footstep after nearly a half year being in the public microscope.

Some booed after the vote.

"Five hours wasted," a woman said leaving the meeting as the vote was on the floor.

Edinger made a motion early in the meeting to remove Tubbs Hill from the project, which was approved unanimously. Edinger, who recently underwent stomach surgery, also made motions twice for removing the Third Street boat launch, the baseball field from the plan as well allowing for a public advisory vote.

Those all died from moving forward from a lack of a second.

The council did adopt a resolution not to use bonds, levies or tax dollars other than urban renewal money.

Nathan Baker talks about the need for a skate park at McEuen Field as dozens of others wait in line to speak to the city council.

 

Coeur d'Alene City Councilman listens to fellow council member Deanna Goodlander make her motion on the McEuen Field proposal following more than three hours of public comment on the issue.

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