Property swap gets 2nd chance

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) An undeveloped parcel of land along Triangle Drive, just north of the Lake Pend Oreille School District offices, is heavily used by foot traffic walking through to the Larkspur Street and Lupine Loop area. Ponderay City Council agreed to a property swap Monday night that will allow the city to develop the property with an access road connecting Triangle Drive to that residential area.

PONDERAY — A proposed property swap rejected by council members in February was again a topic of conversation at Monday's meeting. This this time, however, it was approved.

The properties in question are a city-owned parcel and its adjoining property located on Triangle Drive just north of the Lake Pend Oreille School District offices. City planning director Erik Brubaker said a small business owner, who is looking to relocate to Ponderay, was interested in doing the swap — acre for acre — for the parcels. The privately-owned parcel, south of the city-owned parcel, is slightly larger and has a drainage running through it.

After hearing the proposal during the Feb. 21 meeting, council members were not opposed to the land swap, but the city would have, in the original proposal, been stuck with a $5,000 engineering cost to create an access road on the individual's property. Council members agreed they were not comfortable with the cost.

Since then, Brubaker said, he has spoken with the individual who was still willing to do the swap and split the cost. The benefit to the city is that it will have a say in the process as city engineers will do the design, which is important mainly because of the drainage. The city will also get right-of-way dedication to provide an access road that lines up with Schweitzer Plaza Drive to the other side of the property in the Larkspur Street and Lupine Loop area. Brubaker said the property is used heavily by foot traffic going back and forth between Triangle Drive and the Larkspur and Lupine area.

"One thing about the property swap option is, in the end, it gives the city a lot more options," Brubaker said.

Besides having an access to the Larkspur and Lupine area, Brubaker and Ponderay Police Chief Jimmy Cornelius discussed an emergency vehicle access through the property as well. There is only one access in and out of the apartments to the east of the property, so Cornelius said that would be beneficial to emergency personnel. Another option discussed as a possible use for the property in the future is a park.

To develop the access, Brubaker said the city will use funds set aside for community development. The cost to develop the access road through the property, he said, is estimated at around $20,000. Developing the property would raise the value from $117,000 to $400,000, creating a taxable return difference of $1,100 in the city's annual revenue stream for the property, Brubaker said.

"If we applied all of those dollars to paying for this improvement, it would be a 17-year payback on that," he said.

Some of the costs are already included in the parks and pathways plan budget for improvements on the property as well.  

The next order of business will be for the city to apply for a special use permit for light industrial use on the property they currently own to the north, which the individual will take over after the swap. Special use is a zoning permit and once it is approved it is an entitlement that runs with the land, Brubaker said. The access road through the south property will be a condition of that permit. Because the south property is slightly larger than the north property, the access road will even out the property acreage to create an even swap of the parcels in the future.

"I can't see anything wrong with it as long as we are working on an even swap, property for property, and a little bit of engineering," said Mayor Steve Geiger.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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