By Mayor Shelby Rognstad
I want to thank everyone who came to the first “Lunch With the Mayor” at Cedar St. Bistro on the last Thursday in October. We had a great discussion on many issues related to quality of life, affordability, growth and the economy.
There was much discussion about recent changes to the short-term rental ordinance. Sandpoint has taken the lead statewide in developing a short-term rental ordinance that preserves the historic character of our neighborhoods while protecting long-term rental homes and keeping rent down. This is still a work in progress, as council had a workshop last Wednesday to refine the ordinance. The goal is to create an ordinance that gives greater flexibility to homeowners and creates greater equity and consistency in enforcement. I’m confident we can strike the right balance giving homeowners potential income through short-term rental while protecting the integrity of our neighborhoods. Council will consider a revised ordinance in January.
Sidewalks were also discussed at length. The city has always been challenged on how to fund and encourage construction of sidewalks. The most affordable and definitive solution is a city-wide bond that could be paid off over a generation. I suspect this would be a politically challenging initiative that would require two-thirds voter approval. I’m investigating the issue in hopes that we can find alternatives to sidewalk requirements and funding mechanisms that provide greater incentive for homeowner participation. Ultimately, the goal is a complete sidewalk network city-wide.
There was also much discussion about workforce housing and growth. We need growth if we are to have employment opportunities, particularly for younger people and families. Without economic growth and vitality, Sandpoint could become a retirement community for only the wealthy. We also don’t want Sandpoint to grow too much so that we lose the quality of life that attracts us here in the first place. We don’t want crowded streets, parks, parking, long commutes, increased crime and strains on public safety resources. Yet to sustain economic vitality, we need more housing options that are affordable for working families, young people and elderly on fixed incomes. We want more patrons supporting local businesses so they thrive year round. Striking the perfect balance is the key to Sandpoint’s success. The city is doing this through proactive zoning and good urban planning.
Our talk ended with a discussion about my vision for Sandpoint. Balanced growth was at the center of that discussion. The city is addressing growth head on with the current Comprehensive Plan sub-area review around the UI-Boyer Property. The city has hosted four workshops and public hearings since September inviting the public to envision the community’s highest and best aspirations for the future development of the region east of the airport. Overwhelmingly, the public has expressed greatest interest in using the property for recreation, open space and wetland conservation. Other desired uses included workforce housing, mixed commercial use and education. All of these priorities support a vision for Sandpoint that accommodates balanced growth, a thriving economy, ensures affordability and preserves our quality of life. Additional workshops will be held in 2018 to consider future development of the UI property based on input from the nearly complete sub-area review. Your participation will make the project a success.
Separate from this effort is a citizen-led visioning for a community recreation center. Identified in our Parks Master Plan, a rec center has long been a community aspiration. Over the last few years, an informal YMCA citizen advisory council has formed to explore the possibility of a rec center in the region. The citizen advisory council envisions the project on the current UI Boyer property, a central location with great connectivity and integration with residential and recreational use. A rec center would offer affordable, year-round recreation opportunities for residents and visitors improving quality of life, create jobs and support local economic growth. In response, last week City Council approved a grant funded feasibility study to assess public interest and support for such a facility in Sandpoint. I encourage you to let your voice be heard on this issue at future UI property workshops.
Lunch with the Mayor is an open invitation over lunch hour to discuss issues important to Sandpoint. Please join me on the last Thursday, Nov. 30, from 12-1 p.m. at Cedar St. Bistro to discuss issues vital to Sandpoint’s continued success.
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