P&Z reschedules hearing on 25-acre rezone

Change from industrial to multi-family residential could open the way for workforce housing

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Citing lack of a quorum, the Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commission pushed back its Sept. 28 public hearing on the proposed rezone and Comprehensive Plan change for about 25 acres of industrial land west of the airport, rescheduling for its Tuesday, Oct. 5 meeting.

The parcel, bounded on the west by Great Northern Road and in the north by Woodland Drive, is currently owned by Litehouse Inc. but has sat fallow, but for haying. The company is seeking a rezone to multi-family residential — an effort to increase housing inventory in order to help bring down sky-high prices.

According to Jeremy Grimm, of Whiskey Rock Planning, which is representing Litehouse in its application, the property is under contract for purchase by another party, which envisions a number of housing units that could be detached duplexes, apartments or some combination of the two.

Map courtesy city of Sandpoint.

“We need workforce housing inventory and that property as industrial is not being utilized for its highest and best use,” Grimm told the Reader.

Citing research from the Manhattan Institute, a free-market policy think tank based in New York, Grimm added that, “one of the reasons our housing costs are so high is because we have all of this industrial land locked up around our cities … and if you look at the kinds of jobs we have today they aren’t as focused on heavy industrial.”

As the institute stated in a January 2021 issue brief, this is because of land-use and zoning codes, “which often prohibit nonindustrial uses of large, centrally located areas that would otherwise be in high demand for residential and commercial redevelopment. 

“These policies are supposedly a bulwark against gentrification and the depredations of housing developers, as well as a means of preserving high-paying industrial jobs,” the report noted. “But these benefits are often illusory, and they are far outweighed by severe but harder-to-see consequences: tax revenue shortfalls, massive harms to urban economies and housing unaffordability.”

Describing the envisioned housing project as “definitely infill development,” Grimm also cited letters of support for the rezone and Comp Plan change from large area employers that centered on “the crushing demand for housing and inability to find housing for their workers and the impact on their businesses.”

“I’m a free-market kind of person and tend to believe that if you let the market respond to demand they’ll provide what’s needed,” he said. “In this situation, housing is needed and if you can supply housing it’ll bring down the costs.”

The P&Z Commission will open its public hearing on the application at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 5 at Sandpoint City Hall (1123 Lake St.). 

To participate remotely, go to sandpointidaho.gov and click on the “Meetings” icon on the left side of the homepage. Meanwhile, find more information at sandpointidaho.gov/PZC21-0001. Written comments may be sent to [email protected]

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