PONDERAY — City Council members rejected a proposed land swap Tuesday between a piece of city-owned property and a neighboring privately-owned parcel along Triangle Drive.
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 located just north of the Lake Pend Oreille School District offices. The privately-owned parcel, south of the city-owned parcel, is slightly larger and has a drainage running through it.
"This is one of those natural drainages that, if we can protect it, helps get the water out of here at times like this," Brubaker said, indicating recent flooding from snowmelt and rain.
The city's parcel has been mostly cleared and is ready for a building to go in. The adjoining property is undeveloped, but has walking paths people use to go between Triangle Drive and the Larkspur and Lupine area, Brubaker said.
Brubaker said the city wants to work with the individual either way and bring business into the area, but if they did the swap it would create an opportunity for city engineers to work on an access road that would line up with Schweitzer Plaza Drive to the other side of the property in the Larkspur Street and Lupine Loop area. Without the swap, the city would have less control over the engineering of the property because the individual would likely hire an outside company.
The deal breaker for council members came when they learned if they approved the swap, design engineering of the individual's property would cost the city $5,000.
"I'm uncomfortable with paying our engineers to design his property," said Ponderay city clerk and treasurer Su Warren.
Her sentiments were echoed by members of the council, including Councilwoman Karen Engel who said she wants to support small business, but did not feel comfortable with dedicating city money to the engineering.
"We are sitting here talking about roads falling apart, and I know this is a different budget line item ... but I'm not sure if I am comfortable saying 'this is a place that we're at right now,'" Engel said. "We don't have a lot of money as a city ... I'm not opposed to the land swap and the the dedication ... I'm opposed to us using city dollars on his development at this moment in time."
Engel said if they could do the swap without the dedication to paying for the engineering, she would be in favor.
"I'm not so sure what the taxpayers would think of it," added Councilman Rick Larkin.
Council members noted it was a catch-22 scenario because they do want to manage the property with the drainage, but none were comfortable with the $5,000 engineering cost. Due to time constraints, they agreed not to approve the property exchange at this time.
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