By Anita Aurit
I’ve already posted about how the city handled my ethics complaint against the bullying I received from Tom Bokowy at the September 7th city council meeting. You can read it here. Evidently the city attorney felt bullying of me was appropriate because my blog is carried on Redoubt News, he said several times to me after the meeting, “But you write for Redoubt News!”
City Agenda Items Missing
Although the agenda noted that there would be appointments to commissions, advisory committees and boards as well as two resolutions; none of these items were presented and/or discussed.
Regulate, Regulate and Regulate
Modifications to city codes were discussed to add a definition of footprint, establish changes in lot line procedures; allow NAVD88 for purposes of establishing high water mark; clarify house number signs in residential areas; clarify bicycle parking for industrial zones; add tree house and play structure to definition of accessory building; update Business District section with current zoning; establish a height for fences in front of primary structure and establish libraries as conditional use within residential and MUR zones.
As this blog addresses issues that affect small business in our community, I won’t go into detail about the residential code issues except to say “kudos” to Councilman Camp for stating that our city should not be regulating so many things and that regulating treehouses and playhouses is an overreach. Business owners, do take note of the bicycle parking issue. The new bicycle committee has been given the authority to set requirements regarding how many bicycle parking stands you need and how those bicycle stands must be built,
Taking 60 parking spots from Downtown Parking Lot-“It’s good for business”
The greatest portion of time was given to the “Parking Space Agreement with Boundary Regional Community Health Center DBA Kaniksu Health Services, proposed resolution-City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton-request approval to provide 60 reserved parking spaces in the City parking lot to support relocation of Kaniksu Health Services to downtown.”
Kaniksu Health services have a facility in Ponderay and several offices in downtown Sandpoint. They are looking to relocate all services downtown and have purchased a building at 200 W. Main Street and the adjacent parking lot. The plan is to build there with a ground level parking. The building will be four floors. They will have forty spaces on site but require one hundred spaces in total.
The builder, Richard Villelli (developer of Hidden Lakes Golf Course) presented the following information:
- “first come first served” parking would not work for Kaniksu
- Kaniksu has the top rated VA facility in the country
- There are caveats with this building as the funding is coming from Federal and State funds
- Villelli said, “Keep in mind, this is a non-profit organization”…”Kaniksu is government funded and must accept everyone who comes in the door”
- Doctors don’t like to walk in the snow and/or rain to their cars
It was clear that our mayor and the city administrator were great champions for this agreement stating that ..”it will be bringing employees into the downtown core, with eighty employees and annual revenue of four million dollars the employees and patient population will be using city businesses.” The mayor proudly stated, “It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to drive economic development downtown.” I would say they are driving their own idea of economic development which often does not take local businesses into consideration.
When the council was asked if there had been feedback from the business community the city administrator stated that the chamber was in full support. Interesting, were all the chamber businesses informed and polled? And what about businesses like my own who have cancelled our chamber membership? The chamber does not speak for all businesses in town.
Of course the city wants to spend our tax dollars on a $10,000.00 parking study but Kaniksu will pay half. Guess what, if Kaniksu is fully tax funded then the taxpayers are once again footing the entire bill.
None of the businesses that I know were contacted by the city about this. Wouldn’t you think if you were paying the forced Business Improvement District tax that you would be contacted? Fortunately at least one business, Finan MacDonald, was aware and had a comment read into the record asking the council not to remove sixty spaces from the downtown lot.
Yet, despite the back and forth and exhausting conversation the city was compelled to vote on the issue that night. Why you ask? For the same reason I have seen in so many of these instances, because there was a time constraint and Kaniksu and the builder need to know ASAP, despite the fact that the parking won’t take effect until 2018.
The agreement was voted on and approved.
In my humble opinion the “boon” to the local economy is highly overrated by the city. The reality is that with a government funded health facility that is obligated to take everyone who comes in, there will be many folks who cannot afford to shop, eat or drink downtown. I found this information on The Idaho Primary Care Access Programs FAQ (of which all Kaniksu facilities are members) regarding eligibility requirements: They must be an adult 19‐64 years old with household income of less than 100% of the federal poverty limit and not eligible for other health insurance. For a single adult, the income limit is less than $1,000/month; for a couple it is $1,327/month.
While I am thankful that there are such healthcare options for those whose income is less than 100% of the federal poverty limit, it is highly doubtful that these people will be frequenting local businesses. Using this as an argument for taking sixty parking spaces from local business is ludicrous. Before anyone attempts to smear me as a” health care for lower income people hater” I will remind you that it’s not the healthcare that’s at issue, it’s the city’s bogus argument that local businesses will benefit from losing this parking that is the issue.
I also spent some considerable time researching VA health facility ratings and could not find any resource that said Kaniksu rated #1. There is a listing of the tip twenty-five VA health facilities rated by Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled if we have excellent VA service in our community, I am enthusiastic supporter of our Vets and thankful for their service, it’s just that when I hear a fact stated, I like to research it.
My Two Cents
These “last minute forced decisions” seem to be happening more often. Where is the due diligence of our city council? Why can’t they address these issues early enough to ensure those affected have an appropriate time to respond? I can guarantee you that had more businesses known what was happening at that meeting, more business owners would have attended. Perhaps it was that the item was added to the agenda only 48 hours prior to the meeting? And when will the city realize that the BID and the Chamber do not speak for all businesses? I’ve never had a visit, phone call or email from my BID “representative” how would they know what I think or what my business needs?
And why does the city need a $10,000.00 parking survey? How about contacting the businesses that would be affected by losing sixty parking spaces?
The mayor’s flippant comment that “A full parking lot is a good problem to have.” Is insulting to downtown business. It’s a good problem for the city as they will be paid for the sixty spaces. It will not be a good problem for the businesses that lose clientele because their client can’t find a place to park.