North Idaho Slow Growth
Oct 30, 2023
Next week Kootenai Voters will decide whether or not to authorize a $50 Million dollar bond ($70M with interest), to preserve “Open Space” on the prairie. The principle would be used to acquire and develop land that could be used for parks, bike trails, or other public uses.
Many of us are in favor of limiting growth and densities in the Prairie, and would be willing to pay a little over time to see more of the Prairie preserved, but the lack of assurances regarding how the money will be spent is a problem. (See Update Below!)
UPDATE: The Directory of KC Parks and Waterways has responded to the main issue raised in this article. We appreciate the response, and it provides reassurance that the "worst case" scenario that NISGR was concerned about that is described below is not an immediate threat.
We are leaving the rest of the article as is, for reference. We believe that there are still a lot of uncertainties with the Bond, but the flexibility it gives the KC County Council could have positive upsides as well as risks.
The way the proposal is written is very flexible, giving the County plenty of leeway in how these funds are spent and on which properties to purchase. And if we have trustworthy County Commissioners, who are committed to staving off over-development of the Prairies, this shouldn't be a problem. Right? Or is it. Even with good intentions, there could be issues with back-room deal-making and miscommunication.
The proposal put forth by advocates before the bond was put on the ballot estimated that the county should be able to acquire and develop about 333 acres for $50M dollars. This seems reasonable, but there are no guarantees, and many of the essential questions regarding what exactly will be done with the newly acquired land have not been discussed in any detail.
Therefore, there is a potential for people who are voting for the measure, to misunderstand how the funds will be used.
And there are a few things that make us concerned that plans may be brewing to use the funds for purposes that are not being disclosed. Especially regarding other county properties currently dedicated to open space and recreation, such as the Fairgrounds.
What’s going on with the Kootenai County Fairgrounds?
The most valuable recreational property currently owned by Kootenai County is the 83 acre Fairgrounds at Kathleen and Government Way in central Coeur d’Alene. There has been talk of moving the Fairgrounds to a less congested area on the prairie for many years, but when the last study was made several years ago, it was determined that such a move would cost at least $35M. And that was before both land and development costs shot up sharply in 2020.
And even though the idea of moving the Fairgrounds has not been publicly discussed recently, it appears that certain government officials have advanced ideas about how they could put the current fairground property to greater use. CDA Planners, for example, are clearly assuming that the Fairgrounds will be moved and the land will be sold. And therefore, they have already made provisions for its conversion to more economically productive uses.
How do we know this?
Coeur d’ Alenes’ Comprehensive Plan foresees the conversion of much property in the vicinity Kathleen and I-95, including the Fairgrounds, to private development of high density housing; all according to Agenda 21, "Smart Growth" principles.
In CDA's FLUM, found on page 43 of the Comp Plan, the entire, 83 acre County Fairground property is zoned "Mixed Use", rather than "Civic". So it appears that someone has a plan, not only to move the Fairgrounds, but to develop the extremely valuable land that the Fairgrounds currently sits on, as high-density rental housing.
Of course Kathleen and Government, where the current fairgrounds are located, is already among the most congested intersections in all of Kootenai County. Yet that is exactly where the new FLUM foresees adding thousands of additional residential dwellings. And to solve the anticipated congestion problems, the roadway planners at ITD are planning to widen I-90. If this makes no sense to you, it does to government officials, because ITD has boat loads of money for highways and public transit, and the cities have almost no resources to improve local arterials.
Something doesn't add up. A lot of things don't add up. If there was a coherent plan in place to move the fairgrounds to the prairie that prohibited over-development of existing fairground property, it would be worthy of consideration. But at this point, anything that the county does to facilitate the train wreck of CDA's disastrous Comprehensive Plan, is almost certainly a bad move.
Guarantees Would Be Helpful (See Update Above)
Overall, we are having a hard time understanding why the County Commissioners have been so silent on the topic of exactly what will be done with the property the County Purchases with the Open Space Bond, and whether moving the fairgrounds is, or is not a possibility.
We at NISGR would be happy to help preserve open space in the prairie. But what we certainly do NOT want to do is subsidize the relocation of the County Fair Property in CDA so that it can be sold to developers. We very much want more open space in the Prairie, but not in exchange for a loss of open space where it is most needed, in our already urbanized areas.
Think carefully about whether there are sufficient assurances that the money will be well spent and whether prairie land could be preserved simply by refusing to annex it into Kootenai cities, before handing over Fifty Million dollars for preservation of "Open Space".
Tim Plass says (Oct 31, 2023):
I'm extremely opposed to it and I want to show why it's wrong. 1. Government has no authority to buy land or build something not needed for government purposes. 2. The only people that will use it are libs that want to walk their dogs. 3. Libs that live closer to a farmer's field will go to it and trespass to walk their dog (like they do now) instead of driving to the open space. 3. The aquifer is already protected by Co ordinance limiting 1 septic system/ house per 5 acre over aquifer unless connected to city sewer system, 4) every new development that gets approved is required by city to donate 20 or 40 acres as a park / open space plus set land aside for the school district and co. taxpayers don't have to pay for that, 5) taxpayers will pay increasing taxes to maintain the spaces, 6) More regulations will come limiting what can be done at these locations ... No motorized vehicle, no mountain bikes, only hiking, no camping ... 7) this is purely a socialist idea practiced in France and Europe. Look at what liberal Boulder, Colorado has done with this over the years and how it is limiting their growth now. 8) commissioners are using this to gain liberal support. 9) I don't want to pay any taxes on something that has no benefits to my family, 10) how did county get other park lands? We didn't fund their purchase with a bond.