By Mayor Shelby Rognstad
There are a couple issues I’d like to address this week. First, I applaud Sandpoint High School students taking a stand in solidarity with students around the nation who are concerned about the increasing epidemic of gun violence. On March 14, over 120 local students joined thousands across Idaho in a school walkout to bring awareness to gun violence and the need to act. Around 1,500 students protested at the State House in Boise. Many others joined at the March for Our Lives last Saturday.
Change can only happen when people stand in solidarity and make their voices heard. To those youth who are taking a stand, you are making a difference. Continue to speak up, write your legislators, talk to others about this issue and others that concern you. You are the future. Your voice matters. So will your vote. I want to personally invite you to join the next Mayor’s Roundtable, and I promise you that I will listen. Bring your friends and teachers. We need more youth participating in our community.
In another gun-related matter, two Sandpoint police officers were shot in the line of duty three weeks ago. Thankfully, officers Hutter and Clark are having a good recovery. I truly appreciate their service and courage in the line of duty. This incident, like the school shooting in Florida, was perpetrated by a person with mental health issues. It makes no sense that we, as a society, would not regulate gun ownership to those who are mentally healthy. We don’t allow driver’s licensure to those who are unsafe or unfit to drive. Guns are dangerous and should be regulated as such. Elected officials have a legislative responsibility to protect public health, safety and welfare. The Second Amendment grants the right to bear arms, but not to shirk responsibility to uphold public safety. We can uphold the Second Amendment AND provide for public safety through background checks and mental health screening.
Now for some good news. A few weeks ago I was in Jackson, Wyo., where I met with the LOR Foundation board to follow through with the city’s request for a $4 million grant. The request was for the purchase of the 77-acre University of Idaho property on Boyer Avenue. The city made the request in an effort to preserve open space and wetland on the parcel as well as to facilitate the development of a community recreation center. These priorities were identified in the Comprehensive Plan update and again through the open house, workshops and survey that were conducted last month.
While our full request was not granted, LOR did commit to offering $500,000 toward the purchase of land at the site specifically for a future recreation center. The city and LOR are currently working through conditions of the grant. In addition, LOR offered $500,000 to the city of Ponderay for the planning and development of the Field of Dreams complex north of the City. Sandpoint is incredibly grateful to LOR for this generous gift. A recreation center has long been an aspiration for the community, and this grant could allow the city to leverage the purchase of a portion of the parcel on Boyer for a future recreation center. Meanwhile, Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency (SURA) is initiating the process of revising its master plan for the northern urban area which should be complete by fall. Doing so would allow the agency to contribute funds toward purchase and/or public infrastructure development on the site. The city will be looking to partner with a private developer to share in the purchase. Hopefully the city, in partnership with urban renewal, can purchase 15 to 20 acres for a community rec center, and the developer could purchase the balance.
SURA’s participation does give significant leverage to influence future development on the property. Urban Renewal could repay public infrastructure costs to a developer upon meeting certain conditions with the development. Such conditions could facilitate more open space, creek access, trail connectivity, and other public assets. The city also has limited ability to leverage through zoning, planned use development agreement and deferment of fees associated with development. The end goals are to dedicate space for a community/recreation center, allow for trail connectivity in accordance with the Trails Master Plan and allow public access to Sand Creek.
Please join me for the Mayor’s Roundtable discussion this Friday, 8:00 a.m., at Cedar St. Bistro to discuss these issues and more.
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