Parking plan amendment ends in tie

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SANDPOINT — City Council members ran into a stalemate Wednesday evening regarding a request by Kaniksu Health Services to once again amend a parking agreement the council recently approved.

The parking agreement approved in November will allow Kaniksu Health, in 2018, to lease up to 60 parking spaces from the city. Half of the spaces needed would be provided in the city parking lot on Third Street, and the other half would be provided elsewhere in the downtown area.

Kaniksu plans to relocate its Ponderay office to downtown Sandpoint next year, but to get state and federal funding approval for a new building, they needed to prove sufficient parking is available for the building size. Approximately four spaces are required per 1,000 square feet, and the company planned to build about 26,000 square feet at 200 W. Main St., which has an existing parking lot with about 40 parking spaces, which they planned to keep and build over top of for a covered lot. In addition to those 40 on-site spaces, they would need up to 60 more with the new construction.

Richard Villelli, the developer contracted by Kaniksu to find a new site location, returned this week to announce the company would not be building the new building right away. Instead, Kaniksu will be remodeling the 15,000-square-foot building currently occupied by Tomlinson Sotheby's at the same location on Main Street. Villelli said they still plan to build a new facility in the future, likely smaller than proposed in the original plan. It could be up to four years before the facility is built.

"The time just didn't work out for us to get everything done that we needed to do — get the building designed and get it built by June 30, 2018," Villelli said. "We had anticipated, we were hopeful anyhow, that we would have everything agreed in September or October. But now, as you know, we are into January, so we have postponed the construction of the new building."

The requested amendments including adding Villelli Enterprises, Inc. as the owner of the property and to change the wording of the agreement to allow the company to keep the number of parking spaces in the agreement upon Kaniksu's occupancy of the "existing" building rather than "new" building. Villelli said Tomlinson Sotheby's agreed to vacate the building on Dec. 31, 2017. Renovations will begin in January 2018 and should be complete by the time the company originally wanted to be in the new building in June.

Villelli said it would be a "win" for everyone because Kaniksu would only need approximately 30 spaces when they move into the existing building, so 15 spaces would be allocated in the Third Street lot and 15 spaces in other downtown locations.

Councilman Stephen Snedden said the amendment represents a "dramatic shift" in the original agreement.

"I feel like the offer that we made previously was very fair to Kaniksu Health and to the Villelli's, and it was with the understanding that there would be new construction in the downtown of approximately 26,000 square feet," Snedden said. "My concern with this is that we are no longer incentivising that new construction."

Councilwoman Shannon Williamson disagreed with Snedden in that the company would still be bringing business downtown between staff and patients.

"It's not just their employees that are looking for parking downtown like many of our downtown businesses, business owners and employees, but bringing a significant patient population with them that need that assistance or need to have the ability to park close by," Williamson said. "I agree it's disappointing that we won't get the immediate benefit economically from additional construction, or along the same timeline that we anticipated, but it doesn't sound like that 15,000 square feet is going to be sufficient for their use and that they will need to build additional space.

In the end, three council members voted yes on the amendments and three voted no. Mayor Shelby Rognstad was not in attendance to break the tie, so the motion failed and the original agreement will stand at this time.

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