Agreement could open up more waterfront access

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COEUR d’ALENE — The city is waiting for a development proposal for land east of Mill River to see whether or not it will continue with a land exchange agreement that includes 4 acres and a riverfront trail along the Spokane River.

The city and Rivers Edge Apartments LLC entered into an agreement last week that could result in adding 1,500 feet of public waterfront to the approximately ¾-miles of adjacent city waterfront at the former Atlas Mill site, which the city purchased last month.

The agreement calls for exchanging approximately 4 acres of city-owned former railroad right-of-way that bisects Rivers Edge Apartment property south of Seltice Way, for 4 acres owned by Rivers Edge inside the adjacent Atlas Mill site.

But the exchange won’t happen unless both parties — the city and Rivers Edge — get want they want.

Rivers Edge wants a zone change to allow 870 apartment units, in six-story buildings up to 75-feet high, to be built on its property.

The city wants extended public access including a 1,500-foot walking trail along the river.

The memorandum of agreement approved last week by the City Council allows the two entities to work together toward a common goal, city attorney Mike Gridley said.

“It’s really not binding,” Gridley said. “It’s really an expression of each party’s goals and what they would like to accomplish.”

If those goals are met, the land will be exchanged.

Just one person chimed in at last week’s public hearing to voice approval of the development plan, despite not liking the idea much at all.

Chet Gaede of Friends of the Spokane River Corridor said he didn’t like having six-story apartments along the river. But if the alternative is more sprawl elsewhere — such as on the Rathdrum Prairie — and if the city can get an easement for more public access to the river, he grudgingly approved of the development.

“I think the important thing for council is not how people feel, but what’s the option,” Gaede said. “Don’t we want the density to stay in the city?”

Even if Rivers Edge wasn’t approved for a zone change to add 400 more units, and raise its buildings, the river view from Seltice Way would still be obstructed, he said.

“We’re going to lose the view, but we would lose it anyhow,” he said.

The city’s planning department should receive the development plan from Rivers Edge within 60 days.

“I’m looking for them to cross the T’s and dot the I’s before any of this is finalized,” council member Kiki Miller said.

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