"Human reproduction is here to stay, folks."
- Rathdrum's Don Jacklin, referring to the area's inevitable growth
By BRIAN WALKER
RATHDRUM — That was (surprisingly) easy.
The opposition over the largest Rathdrum annexation request in recent history that was voiced at the Planning and Zoning level wasn't echoed at Wednesday night's City Council meeting.
After no one spoke against Bluegrass Developments' 152-acre single-family residential proposal near the southeast corner of Meyer and Lancaster roads during a public hearing, the City Council unanimously approved the request that includes a 10-acre donation for a future elementary school in the Lakeland Joint School District.
"Human reproduction is here to stay, folks," said Rathdrum's Don Jacklin, referring to inevitable growth and whose family has deep agricultural roots in the area.
Jacklin, among four people who spoke in favor of the proposal, said he favors a planned development with landscaping, walking trails, homes for families and sewer services as opposed to 5-acre lots.
The applicants, John Magnuson and Tom Anderl, said there could be anywhere between 200 and 600 lots in the project depending on how the design shapes up, but around 400 is most likely. About 10 percent of the project will feature larger lots that are a third of an acre.
"Rathdrum is going to have to keep annexing in land ...," Rathdrum's Norman Meyer said. "If it doesn't, Post Falls will be right up against us because they keep annexing, too."
Coeur d'Alene's Tom Torgerson said he knows the Henrickson family who has owned the property for many years.
"They toiled and toiled over this decision," he said. "It was extremely emotional until they found a developer they were comfortable with."
Brian Wallace, the school district's finance director, estimated the school district donation could be worth more than $700,000.
"I think it shows the developers have some skin in the game," he said.
Becky Meyer, the school district's superintendent, and Lisa Sexton, the district's assistant superintendent, didn’t endorse the annexation but spoke about its impact on the school district. They said the developers approached the district about the donation and have agreed to put the school site inside the project rather than along Meyer, per the district's direction.
"In the 27 years I've worked for the district, (a school site donation from a developer) has never happened," said Sexton, adding it will allow the district to maintain small neighborhood schools that are coveted by patrons.
Council member Paula Laws said the homes will be phased in.
"They're not going to drop 450 homes on us in a year," she said.
Mayor Vic Holmes said the city hears residents' concerns about maintaining a small-town feel, but it also needs to respect people's freedoms.
"I love the small-town feel, too, but this is still America," he said. "People have a right to live here if they want and develop their property with in the scope of the rules and regulations."
Wednesday's smooth sailing for the proposal was in stark contrast to the Planning and Zoning hearings that drew heavy opposition from residents who were concerned the project will hamper Rathdrum's small-town feel and believed land already inside the city should be developed first.
The first planning hearing was thrown out due to conflicts of interests by multiple board members. Ultimately, Commissioner Deborah Furey, the lone person on that five-member board who didn't recuse themselves from making a recommendation on the proposal after the second hearing, recommended last month that the council approve the request.