Lunch with the Mayor: Envisioning the future

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At last month’s LWTM we discussed short term rentals, the future of the university of Idaho property, and the city’s new opengov platform for transparency and citizen involvement. Further updates will occur as these issues continue to develop over the next couple months.

We also discussed the proposed smelter in Newport and its potential impacts on our community. I met with the Kalispel Tribe last week to discuss the proposal and signed on to a letter, with the tribe and other government officials in the region, requesting Washington Departmentt of Ecology permitting decisions be based on accurate data, particularly with respect to transboundary impacts caused by the smelter. I also requested the opportunity to review the department’d proposed methods of determining impacts in our jurisdictions prior to any analysis being performed. Next, we will collaborate on an informational panel in Sandpoint to discuss the proposed smelter. This is a topic that I will address in greater detail next month.

This month, I want to wish all of you a happy holiday season. I also want to thank downtown retailers and business owners who contributed their time and energy to decorate downtown with holiday lights. This is a previous benefit of the Business Improvement District that will sorely be missed. Fortunately, Sandpoint has a dedicated group of entrepreneurs that take pride in their storefronts and it shows!

Through 2018, this administration will continue to focus on public engagement, economic vitality, quality of life and affordability. The opengov platform, live since November, is at the core of the city’s Financial Trans-parency Initiative. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you can find it by clicking on “finances” on our homepage (https://operate-production-stories.s3.amazonaws.com/published/test-financial-transparency). I’m very excited about the open town hall platform that will soon integrate with opengov and provide the public greater opportunity to be informed and provide feedback on important issues facing the city. Citizens will be able to log on to the city’s website from the comfort of their homes and provide comment or ask questions as if they were participating in a public meeting. I’m confident that these tools will dramatically improve public engagement and participation on all important decisions within city government.

The council recently approved a revised sub-area map of the comprehensive plan for the North Boyer area. The revision was the result of several workshops, public hearings and an open house inviting public input to craft a 20-plus year vision to guide future zoning and development. The city has posted a request for proposal to facilitate a site specific broad-based community visioning process to consider future development at the UofI site specifically. The series of workshops will occur in January and February of 2018. Through the comprehensive plan revision process the public clearly placed high value in parks and open space, workforce housing, education, mixed use commercial and light industrial use. Any future request for development or rezoning of the area will reflect these community values.

It is important to recognize that the city can only regulate development of the property through zoning or purchase. For this reason, the city is pursuing two parallel paths to ensure that the public interest is protected as growth happens in this area. The sub-area review creates the opportunity for future revised zoning to more accurately reflect the community’s vision for highest and best use. The city can up-zone to a more intense use, such as high density housing or mixed use commercial, to leverage a park, trails, or land for a rec center.

Paralell to this process, the city is pursuing funding opportunities that may enable purchase of the property. More space dedicated to park, wetland and open space is possible when development is not solely market driven. Whichever path growth takes, it is essential that the city develop a good plan to guide development in the best interests of its Citizens. I invite you all to participate in planning workshops as they are announced.

I hope to see you at Lunch with the Mayor on Thursday, Dec. 21 to discuss these topics and more. This will be the last meeting of 2017, 12 p.m. at the Cedar Street Bistro.

Shelby Rognstad is the mayor of Sandpoint. He can be reached at mayor@sandpointidaho.gov.

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