By Zach Hagadone
Members of the Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional use permit application June 7, moving a proposed mixed-used development one step closer to bringing more than 130 new apartments to North Boyer Avenue.
The development, by Sandpoint Opportunity Zone Fund, LLC, would be located on the four-acre vacant lot bounded to the north by the railroad tracks, to the east by Sixth Avenue and to the south by Chestnut Street, and consist of two four-story buildings each with a footprint of about 22,400 square feet.
Located within the Commercial B zone, the ground floors of both buildings would be made up of 12,014 square feet of residential apartments — including one three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit; 10 two-bedroom, two-bath units; and two one-bedroom, one-bath units. That’s in addition to 3,150 square feet of common space, 1,486 square feet of storage and decks, and 5,700 square feet of non-residential, which could include retail, facilities infrastructure, office space, workout space or some other combination.
The non-residential spaces would face North Boyer with glass storefronts and be accessed from the 204-stall parking area located in the rear of the buildings.
Upper floors in the buildings would be almost entirely residential, with 20 units per floor including two three-bedroom, two-bath units; 14 two-bedroom, two-bath units; and two one-bedroom, one-bath units. As with the ground floor, upper stories would also have about 3,000 square feet of common space.
Altogether the project would feature 67 dwelling units per building for a total of 134 apartments.
Todd Butler, of Coeur d’Alene-based Forte Architecture and Planning, represented the applicant, telling commissioners that his client is currently wrapping up a similar large-scale mixed-use development in Missoula, Mont., and the vacant property just west of the Milltown apartment complex — and a short walk north of Super 1 Foods — “was a really good fit for this zone and this context area, in our opinion.”
Asked by Commissioner Slate Kamp whether the units could be considered workforce housing, Butler said “by the nature of apartments you get that.”
However, pricing for the units would be “just market. It’s a market income,” Butler said.
“There will just be continual market research on this,” he added. “Historically the most marketable seem to be two-bedroom, two-bath units. We’re going to have to make some of those final decisions at the end. … There will be flexibility built into the design, but we don’t have all the answers at this time.”
The site plan calls for a courtyard separating the buildings and providing a pedestrian connection between the parking lot and North Boyer frontage, as well as a playground and sports court near the southeast corner. The developer also intends to include electric vehicle charging stations.
While commissioners voted unanimously to approve the application, it came with a number of conditions, including a required traffic impact study. North Boyer is already considered an arterial road, and poised to become orders of magnitude busier as other high-profile housing developments progress along the road farther to the north, including University Place and Boyer Meadows. Because it’s a principal arterial, Sandpoint City Code doesn’t allow direct access onto North Boyer unless it’s determined acceptable and approved by the traffic study, which is getting underway.
Commissioner Amelia Boyd expressed some concern about an existing road on the northern edge of the property that connects to North Boyer within a short distance from the railroad crossing.
“My concern is if the traffic impact study does approve this, I find it hard-pressed for that even to be a viable access point because of the proximity of the railroad track,” she said.”It’s always backed up there anyway.”
Butler said the trip generation letter for the project “raised some red flags about this many more trips per day,” but noted that the site has plenty of access off of Sixth and Chestnut.
Another sticking point was the timeline for delivering the project.
One of the conditions stipulated that “work shall commence within one year following the date of approval by City Council,” while another stated that “duration of the development shall be completed and certificates of occupancy issued within three years of the CUP issuance.”
Owing to the size of the development and the construction labor and materials crunch, Butler worried about those conditions, noting that he’s been working on the project in Missoula for close to a year already and it’s still unready for tenants.
“I’m sure this will be a year or more in the build of one [building],” he said, adding that planning for the project has already been pushed back to spring 2023 and may even be extended into next summer.
“A year could be very tight,” he said.
City staff said the condition regarding the one-year requirement for work to commence is from City Code and so is required, but three-year occupancy deadline could be adjusted by Planning and Zoning.
Commissioner Ben McGrann proposed that the three-year condition could be amended to provide for two one-year extensions to be granted at the discretion of city staff, which fellow commission members approved with their vote in favor of the application.
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