Recreation shines during UI workshop

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Participants of Tuesday’s University of Idaho property workshop, hosted by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, voted on what priorities they would like to see for the 77-acre property. Parks and recreation took the lead with 43 coins. (Photo by MARY MALONE)

SANDPOINT — As it was "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" Tuesday, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission held its University of Idaho property workshop accordingly.

With nearly 50 participants, the crowd was split up into eight groups where they designated a ship captain. Each group was then given 10 doubloons, which may have actually been round, gold-colored stickers. Aaron Qualls, planning and economic development director, encouraged people to talk like pirates if they so chose, but no one took on the challenge.

The public workshop was one of the first in a series set up by city officials to determine the priorities for the property and update the city's comprehensive master plan prior to the sale of the property. UI officials recently attended a City Council meeting to announce they intend to sell it, but are working with the city to ensure there is no "detrimental" impact.

"This first workshop is going to be very broad-based," Qualls said as the meeting began. "Through a series of workshops, we are going to continue to get finer and finer grained."

Each group was asked to look at four predetermined, "area priorities" for the 77-acre treasure. Before deciding on which priorities they would like to spend their doubloons, a couple priorities were added, including agriculture and multi-use/public facilities.

The four predetermined priorities provided in a workshop packet were parks and recreation, housing, education and jobs and economy. Parks and recreation won by a landslide with 43 doubloons. Housing and education each got nine doubloons, jobs and economy received eight, multi-use received seven and agriculture got four doubloons.  

Joel Aispuro, one of the group captains and City Council candidate, said his group spent the majority of their doubloons on parks and recreation.

"There is a lot of things that fall under that category," Aispuro said. "I wouldn't say that was everybody's opinion ... but our overall consensus was parks and rec."

Jeff Bohnhof, also a group captain and council candidate, said his group fell along the same lines as Aispuro's. They also put some of their doubloons on a multi-use facility and housing. Group six had added the multi-use/public facility option, which group captain Fred Omodt said they thought could include a commercial kitchen, recreation center, community gardens or "any number of things." 

"Primarily it was to preserve that area as open space and public use, so we supported our alternative with four coins, but because it seems to mesh so well with parks and rec, we went with six coins there to push parks and rec over the top," Omodt said.

Most of the group captains said while the majority of their doubloons went to parks and recreation, they would like to see a mix of uses across the property to include some housing, facilities, education and agriculture.

Part of the workshop was reserved for an open house, where community members browsed informational boards regarding the property and surrounding area, zoning and Bonner County trail planning. Commission members also asked for public input on the plan area.

"We wanted to incorporate areas outside the parcel, because whatever future uses happen on that parcel may impact those surrounding properties," Qualls said.

The UI property was originally home to the Sandpoint Research and Extension Center, which closed in 2010 due to budget cuts. The center was among 12 facilities statewide at that time targeted for closure as UI officials looked to cut $3.2 million from the school's research and extension budget. Two years prior to that, it was being proposed as a UI satellite campus, but to no avail. It has since been used by groups for recreational purposes, such as cross-country skiing and disc golf.

The next item on the schedule is a tour of the property on Sept. 27, followed by another workshop on Oct. 17 and a public hearing in November.

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

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