Tensions flare at council meeting

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  • The city of Coeur d’Alene is proposing a land swap for two properties owned by St. Vincent de Paul, like this transitional housing complex at 1516 Sherman Ave. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • 1

    Widmyer

  • 2

    Gookin

  • The city of Coeur d’Alene is proposing a land swap for two properties owned by St. Vincent de Paul, like this transitional housing complex at 1516 Sherman Ave. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • 1

    Widmyer

  • 2

    Gookin

COEUR d’ALENE — Talk of a proposed land deal in the closing minutes of Tuesday night’s Coeur d’Alene City Council meeting turned abruptly contentious, prompting council member Dan Gookin to question the transparency of the council’s acquisition process.

The city is examining a potential land swap with St. Vincent de Paul of Kootenai County to acquire a pair of the charity’s properties on East Sherman Avenue in exchange for two city properties on Homestead Avenue and roughly $300,000.

“In the last few strategic planning sessions that council has had, this was not brought up,” Gookin said. “It seems kind of hasty. It seems that we are looking for a solution to someone else’s problem, and trying to fit ourselves into that solution … It’s not transparent.”

When Gookin pressed where the $300,000 was coming from, city attorney Michael Gridley said the funds would be drawn from Coeur d’Alene’s general fund, prompting additional dissent.

“So further showing a lack of strategic planning, this was not included in the budget,” Gookin said.

The properties in question were the subject of a city presentation that made a number of suggestions for the best use of the land, which included a public parking lot, a pocket park, a space for a farmers market or a small business zone.

Gookin criticized what he described as a “brainstorming” session, saying that while the ideas were creative, they did not represent a plan.

“If we want to do something on East Sherman, let’s unveil that master plan,” he said. “Let’s daylight it, and let’s discuss it up here, and then let’s see if this fits into it. But to bring it forward as a cart before the horse, I’m very uncomfortable spending $300,000 we were told wasn’t available six months ago. I am opposed. I am opposed, and I don’t even want to wait to hear more information. If we’re going to do good planning in this city, let’s do it transparently, and let’s do it with time and care.”

Mayor Steve Widmyer later cut him off during the discussion.

“I let you talk,” Widmyer said. “I’m talking now. This is an opportunity that came up with St. Vincent de Paul … We’ve been talking about doing something on East Sherman since I’ve been in city government.”

The two went back and forth, with council members chiming in. No decisions were made Tuesday night.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 4.

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