BGH sky bridge gets OK

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SANDPOINT — City officials gave Bonner General Hospital clearance to move forward with a proposed sky bridge to link the facility with its planned extension center.

Central to the hospital’s planned expansion, the sky bridge will link the two hospital facilities while promoting a campus-style atmosphere. The request for a permit was originally filed in March. After reviewing the complications of issuing permits for aerial use, city staff returned with an agreement drafted for council approval.

According to hospital officials, construction of the sky bridge will be paired with work on a new extension facility that will be built

on the former Taylor and Sons Chevrolet lot located on Cedar Street between Third and Fourth avenues. This 40,000-square-foot building will include offices, rehabilitation facilities, retail space and more.

The sky bridge will stretch diagonally over the intersection at Third and Alder to connect the extension to the main hospital building. According to hospital representatives, the bridge will allow safe and quick transit for hospital employees, patients and visitors, protecting them from weather and traffic. That will be particularly useful in winter, when the snow, ice and cold make outdoor walks a trickier proposition, hospital officials said. According to projections, the bridge will be about 80 feet long and 14 feet wide with 15-and-a-half feet of clearance height.

The project isn’t without its detractors. Sandpoint resident Aric Spence criticized the sky bridge for the impact it would have on view sheds throughout the area, blocking views of the Cabinet Mountains and more depending on the individual’s vantage point. In a letter read into the record, he pointed out that those types of obstructions were discouraged in the Sandpoint Comprehensive Plan.

“This type of encroachment should simply not be allowed,” he wrote.

While he sympathized with the viewpoint, Councilman Aaron Qualls said the sky bridge and expansion building took other aspects of the comprehensive plan in the right direction. As the biggest employer in downtown Sandpoint, Bonner General Hospital’s expansion would add new jobs and expand the local tax base, he said.

In addition, Sandpoint City Planner Jeremy Grimm said hospital official’s commitment to remain in downtown Sandpoint was a detail not to be taken lightly.

“They chose to stay and develop in the downtown,” he said. “Don’t underestimate the impact of that.”

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