UI site decision heads to ISBE

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A local developer has offered $4 million to purchase the 75-acre University of Idaho property on Boyer Avenue. The Idaho State Board of Education is slated to take up the decision today whether to approve the sale or not. (Daily Bee file photo/MARY MALONE)

SANDPOINT — The Idaho State Board of Education will make a decision today whether to allow the sale of the University of Idaho property on Boyer Avenue.

According to board documents, local developer Tim McDonnell has offered $4 million to purchase the 75-acre property.

“UI has concluded that higher offers are unlikely to be forthcoming for this property unless UI invests additional time and financial resources that will be necessary to make the land marketable for its highest and best economic use as residential and commercial property,” ISBE officials stated in the document.

The property was donated to the college in 1913 and was once the site of UI’s Sandpoint Research and Extension Center. The center was closed by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences several years ago and has not been used for university programs since, according to the documents.

UI staff worked with city of Sandpoint staff for more than a year attempting to reach an agreement, as the city had hoped to purchase the property. The city’s vision for the land included open space, trail connectivity and a recreation center among other aspects. The city was able to secure some grant funding, though it fell short of the undisclosed amount UI officials were willing to sell it for. The LOR Foundation, in particular, had agreed to a conditional grant of $400,000, however, the main condition was that a recreation center be in development within a year. The city had hoped to partner with a private group, such as YMCA, to put a recreation center on a portion of the property. Then the YMCA found a home in Sandpoint, taking over Sandpoint West Athletic Club as Litehouse YMCA.

The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation had also agreed to the city using up to $150,000 of its High Five grant, with similar conditions of building a recreation center. When city officials realized they would not be able to fund the property fully through grants, they sent out a request for proposal seeking a private partner for the purchase. Local developer Ralph Sletager answered the RFP, but ultimately decided the price was not right, City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said in December as UI officials prepared to put the property on the open market.

According to the ISBE documents, UI recently entered into a purchase and sale agreement with McDonnell, contingent on approval by the state board.

“The former Sandpoint Research and Extension Center no longer serves any programmatic purpose,” according to the documents. “Its disposal will eliminate caretaking costs and institutional vacant property risk. Net proceeds from the $4 million sales price will provide financial resources that can better align with current university priorities and initiatives.”

The UI decision is the last item on the board’s agenda for today’s 8 a.m. meeting in Pocatello.

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

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