By Zach Hagadone
Sandpoint city councilors viewed the final report of the downtown waterfront design competition Oct. 18, capping a process that began with a solicitation for teams in February and resulting in finalist GGLO-Bernardo Wills’ vision, titled “The Blue Necklace.”
The GGLO-Bernardo Wills team went before the competition jury Oct. 10 with its Stage III design, taking comments and suggestions, which they incorporated into the presentation Oct. 18 before council.
Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton reminded the council that no action had been requested on the report at that point; rather, “What you’re seeing here is their culmination of the process into a vision and this is where council will ultimately make a decision at a future meeting to accept the report.”
In other words, while the presentation of the final report marked the end of the competition, it represented the beginning of the process of “handing it back over to the city” for public workshops on priorities; analysis of when, how or whether certain elements should be implemented; and the adoption of codes to make it happen.
“This isn’t something that we would see adopted, per se. I think what it is is a framework,” said Don Stastny, a Portland, Ore.-based architect and master planner with whom the city contracted to manage the competition. Rather, he added, it gives the community a way to look at public-private partnerships and other strategies to bring together the city’s various master plans into a cohesive whole.
GGLO principal Mark Sindell presented the final report, while councilors asked a range of detailed as well as high-level questions.
Councilor Jason Welker keyed in on the design team’s recommended “next step planning and design projects,” which included seven items — among them, at No. 5, a “Sand Creek Corridor and First Ave. Core Zoning Study.”
“Further study? We literally thought a year ago, we told Don Stastny that the deliverable we expected was language … to be adopted upon completion,” Welker said, adding that the city has a planner, a historic commission, interested community members and a historic preservation officer.
“We could do this ourselves; why do we need another study?” he said.
Furthermore, he stressed that the report’s “short-term consideration” for building heights on First Avenue were 65 feet with a 10-foot setback above 45 feet, while the “long-term consideration” identified 55 feet with a 20-foot setback above 35 feet.
“That needs to be short-term tomorrow,” he said, referring to the 55-foot height restriction. “You think Travers is a big issue? Wait until you see a 65-foot building on Bridge Street.”
Welker emphasized that the city had been asking for code amendments more than a year ago, and was saddened to hear that developers on the east side of First Avenue are already well into their plans without those amendments in place.
“This should be Phase Zero,” he said.
Fellow councilors agreed that several elements of the Phase 1 implementation schedule could and should be moved on sooner than later.
The final design report will go back before the council for approval at a to-be-determined November meeting, followed by more public discussion and workshops, including recommendations on how to move forward as quickly as possible.
“We can start having these conversations now, prior to Phase 1 starting off,” Councilor Justin Dick said. “It is time to discuss these things.”
View a PDF of the full GGLO-Bernardo Wills Stage III report at bit.ly/46RQpkI.
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