By Zach Hagadone
Sandpoint City Council members voted Sept. 15 to move two subdivision projects forward on North Boyer Avenue, voting 4-2 to approve the preliminary plat for the 21-lot Boyer Meadows development and 5-1 to approve the final plat for the 51-lot Phase 2A of the University Place project, which comprises the bulk of the southern portion of the 74-acre former University of Idaho property.
The final plat for Phase 1 has already been approved, which means construction of public infrastructure can go forward on much of the property, as it has on the northern parcel. While the northern portion will be single family residential, the southern portion is planned for commercial and multi-family. There are still three more phases, including 2B and Phases 3 and 4, which City Hall will take up in the coming weeks.
Though the University Place development is far larger, nearby Boyer Meadows dominated the meeting. Planning and Zoning commissioners recommended the project be approved at their Aug. 17 meeting, but with the condition that a 10-foot non-motorized pathway be incorporated midway through its 580-foot-long street, which would run north from East Mountain View Drive and end in a cul-de-sac.
The 8.5-acre property is made up of two parcels: 4.26 acres to the east zoned single family residential and the remainder to the west zoned industrial technical park. The western portion is undeveloped for the time being, while the eastern portion will feature lots between 6,700 and 8,200 square feet.
Developer Big Creek Land Company, based in Coeur d’Alene, requested that council remove the pathway as a requirement, citing safety and cost concerns.
“People buy in a cul-de-sac, whether it’s families or retirees, because it is one-way in, one-way out,” said Big Creek Land Company owner Cliff Mort.
Adding an access point onto North Boyer would create not only a potential physical safety issue but compromise neighborhood security. Plus, Mort added, constructing the path “probably adds $3,000 to the cost of a house there.”
Council members Deb Ruehle and John Darling both presented amendments to the approval: the former requesting the pathway be moved to the northern boundary of the property and the latter moving that it be eliminated altogether as a condition of approval.
Citing his personal experience developing housing, Darling said, “In this day’s age, it takes away privacy. … Transient people within footsteps of your front door — I see it as a complete take-away from the development.”
Ruehle strongly disagreed, stating that such an argument makes the “assumption that everyone is bad.”
Council member Kate McAlister echoed that cul-de-sacs — while not prohibited, are discouraged by the city’s comprehensive plan — do provide safety and security, but opted for approval without the required pathway in order to keep down costs to encourage affordability.
“If it’s going to cost that much more, I just don’t think that it’s that worth it,” she said. “I would rather forego the pathway and keep this cul-de-sac whole.”
Ruehle pushed back, saying she’s been “exceedingly disappointed in this council. We sit up here and second guess what our Planning and Zoning Commission says, we second guess what the citizens who come to those P&Z meetings express … I would second guess everybody’s heartstrings that they want this ‘safety.’ …
“None of those arguments hold any water with me, because you’re building right up to the edge of an industrial zone,” she added.
“I take umbrage with that,” McAlister responded. “I think we do a good job listening to the people and I think we take all things into consideration. … My big thing is I don’t want to add a $3,000 cost to an individual’s housing.”
That didn’t wash with Ruehle, either, who continued: “I am going to say that if I hear one more developer or one more consultant come before us and talk about affordable or workforce housing and those houses go on the market for $400,000 … it’s an irritant to me.”
“I would request that we stop using those words,” she added later.
Darling’s amendment removing the pathway from the conditional approval carried, with Ruehle and Council President Shannon Sherman voting “nay.”
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