Mayor’s Roundtable: UI/Boyer and the Newport Smelter

By Mayor Shelby Rognstad
Reader Contributor

It has been busy this month at the city.

Consideration of the future of the University of Idaho/Boyer property has been atop the list of happenings. Studio Cascade, a city contracted design firm, hosted a two-day open house inviting public feedback on future use and development of the 77-acre parcel.  The work built off the sub-area comprehensive plan revision that was completed in December. A planning and zoning workshop followed where different development and recreation concepts were weighed.

Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

In conjunction with this effort, the city posted an online survey on Open Town Hall, the first case use of the new city survey platform. Over 560 responses were generated which was an impressive first run.  Respondents overwhelmingly supported dedicating as much of the parcel as possible to open space and recreation.

This supported what we had heard throughout the Comp plan revision process.

While workforce housing, education and agriculture were identified as important, it is clear this community values recreation, open space, wetland conservation, trail connectivity and the many benefits these assets provide above all else. It is for this reason that the city is pursuing every avenue possible to purchase the property which will enable the city to best control its destiny. This is how we can best ensure adherence to the community’s vision and values as it relates to this vital asset.

Next month I will provide a more detailed prognosis of our efforts. No decisions will be made in haste, there will be many opportunities for public involvement as this project continues to develop.

Next week I host a panel discussion for the proposed HiTest Sands Silicon Smelter in Newport, Wash. The panel will include representatives from Idaho DEQ, Washington Department of Ecology, Kalispel Tribe, Pend Oreille Department of Community Development, Idaho Conservation League, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeepers, Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter and the city of Sandpoint. Unfortunately, HiTest Sands declined invitation to participate. The event will be moderated by Chris Bessler (KRFY Panhandle Community Radio) and Ben Olson (the Reader).

The purpose of this panel is simply to inform the public about the proposed project. It is important that the citizens of North Idaho are aware of the proposal and its potential impacts to area residents.

While we recognize the value of high-grade silicon in the global market and the economic benefit that such a project could have for Pend Oreille County and the region, we also recognize that it may have substantial impacts to our air shed, water quality and ecology.

Other impacts to our highways, lake levels and property values should be evaluated as these concerns may be significant to transboundary constituents in North Idaho. I expect these concerns to be addressed by the panel and I’m hopeful that participants leave informed and empowered to act. It is important to note there has not been a permit application submitted to Department of Ecology (WA), therefore there is nothing substantial for the public to respond to at this time, only the proposal as presented by HiTest. Once a permit application is submitted, a public comment period would be established by DOE and would include transboundary jurisdictions such as Bonner County in its scoping.

I encourage all of you to participate in the panel discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Panida Theater. Audience members will have an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists after the mediated discussion. The event is free.

Lastly, I welcome you to join me at the Mayor’s Roundtable this Friday, Feb. 23, 8 a.m. at the Cedar St. Bistro where we discuss topics important to our community over good coffee.

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