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A “Twofer” – Sandpoint City Council Meeting

The council expressed concern that the funding request had changed from the initial workshop conversation

A “Twofer” – Sandpoint City Council Meeting

A “Twofer” – June 7 and 21 City Council Meeting

by Anita Aurit

City Walking Tours.

There was little of particular interest to businesses in town except for tourist/visitor focused companies. The Historic Preservation Committee representative, Jackie Albrecht, presented the first draft of the brochure and explained that there were 3 tours, a red, blue and green tour. All three tours are self-conducted, walking tours of the town area. There was some back and forth as Jane Fritz noted there was a photo of the Kalispel Tribe in the brochure and noted that she would like to review the history they were including as she (Fritz) is an expert. The mayor stated that he would like to include “first people’s” history in the brochure. Albrecht noted that none of the three walking tours have anything to do with the Kalispel tribe.

 

Dog Park (Part 1 6/7)

The Friends of Sandpoint Dog Park – The city announced that they would be conducting workshops in the future for local projects during regular council meeting dates. They recessed the council meeting for the dog park workshop. Council members moved down to the long table in front of the room and invited anyone to join them and participate in the presentation.

The  Friends of Sandpoint Dog Park brought a very professional and informative presentation. Their proposal was that a portion of Lakeview park be fenced in for the off leash park. The plan is in 4 phases. In order to apply for grants, they needed to be under the umbrella of a non-profit and chose Kaniksu Land Trust for this.  The mayor announced that he approached the LOR foundation on their behalf but the foundation had concerns regarding water contamination if the dogs would be swimming in the at the park location. 

Discussions ensued regarding maintenance and upkeep with the Friends of Sandpoint Dog Park stating that their plan was to ensure dog owners were diligent about picking up after their dogs and that they would require dog owners bring their own bags for cleanup. The Parks and Recreation director stated that the city ordered dog waste disposal bags in bulk and could provide these bags for the dog park. The Friends of Sandpoint Dog Park requested a letter from the mayor indicating that the city would provide the location and is in favor of the park. They noted that they were looking for funding from the city for phase 1 for fencing the park but no dollar amount was mentioned. 

As the public was invited to comment in the workshop, I asked if the dog park supporters had investigated private funding options. I recently returned from a conference for professional pet writers and was amazed at the multitude of pet-related projects funded by private companies in the pet industry.   They said no and I encouraged them to check into this.

As this was a workshop there were no motions or votes and the matter was referred to the June 21 meeting for official action. 

DOG PARK- PART 2 (6/21)

In this meeting, the dog park supporters presented their proposal and requests to the city. This was quite a bit different than the information presented at the workshop. It was announced that 482 names had been obtained on the petition for the dog park and then it was stated that the Friends of Sandpoint Dog Park were requesting that the city fund the full first phase. Along with the request to use city (taxpayer monies) for the park was that “so many people travel with their dogs that this will be another reason for them to come to Sandpoint”. When the council asked about the grant they had spoken of previously they said they had applied for a Pet Safe grant but that wouldn’t be awarded until September.

When the city asked what specifically were they looking for in monies they said they would like the Parks department to maintain the lawn, that the city would cover the cost of access to potable water. It was pointed out that the water would be an ongoing cost. In expressing his concern about “commercialization” the Parks and Rep director stated that the Pet Safe grant “isn’t free money”.

Exactly, no grant is free money and that include government grants that come from taxpayer funds. He didn’t want anyone visiting the park to “get knocked over by some brand name.” Aaron Qualls said that, “it could trigger some signage issues”. The Parks and Rec represented said that he felt the city should go ahead and approve the grant application and then address issues of commercialization going forward.

The council expressed concern that the funding request had changed from the initial workshop conversation and asked for some figures. The amounts requested were $12,784.00 quote for the fencing and about $3,900.00 for the water. It was noted by the city that there would be costs for the meter and ongoing costs for the water.

Councilwoman Ruehle asked if the city had a policy on commercialization and was there a list of what Pet Safe wanted in order to award the grant.

Councilman Snedden said, “It was my understanding at the workshop that phase one would be covered by a grant.” The response was, “We’d like to get the grant but it’s not a guarantee which is why we’d like the city to fund it.”

There was more back and forth about commercialization and city budget issues as the budget workshop hadn’t taken place yet.

One member of the public expressed his concerns about pollution due to dog waste and also was not in favor of the city funding of the park. He suggested that methods for dog owners to fund the park should be explored, perhaps with dog licensing fees and added that if the city was considering funding this he wondered if the city would consider subsidizing his horse.

Small living spaces ordinances, tiny houses. Accessory dwelling unit regulations. (6/21)

Some of the wording of these amendments would have an effect on business as regards Bed and Breakfast operators, but most of the conversation covered private dwellings.  The most interesting thing I heard during these discussions was that Aaron Qualls wants all ADU buildings brought up to international building code standards.

This has always confused me, why are state and federal standards not enough? What does any other nation have to do with our buildings? It would seem that building codes and the enforcement of them should reflect community standards and state and local safety standards,   I have lived in Europe, the Orient and different areas of this country and can tell you that the safety needs and community aesthetics vary greatly in all these places.

The council asked City Planner Aaron Qualls if contractors had complaints about existing ordinances. The response was no.

There was much discussion about the wording in one of the proposed changes that stated that additions to dwellings must be compatible with the existing dwelling unit and the neighborhood. The question was who decides it’s compatible? Isn’t this subjective?

Qualls introduced changes to the cottage housing, pocket neighborhood codes in order to provide smaller spaces and allow more density. The changes proposed were to double the density allowance (from 12 to 24).

One person spoke in favor of increasing the density and quoted the recent Affordable Housing Seminar held last week that “the medium income in Bonner County is $42,000.00 and that rentals are prohibitively expensive.

Finally, proposed changes were also introduced for short term rental of dwelling units

Qualls noted that Houses Bill 216 limits the ability of a city to require some restrictions and as the bill goes into effect in January 2018, Sandpoint must ensure its codes are in alignment with this bill. Bed and Breakfast establishments are now included in this code, subject to residential district use regulations in Title 9 Chapter 4. There was also an inactivity clause proposed so that if owners showed a good faith attempt to rent their permit would not be voided. Qualls said that the city was looking to include long term rentals in this code as the city doesn’t want to discourage short term rentals because rentals are scarce.

These ordinances are out of the area of expertise of this business owner so I’ll let you look at the presentation slides and make your own conclusions. 

Of Note:

Sandpoint Police Chief Coon was presented with an award to commemorate his earning of Peace Officer Standards and Training Executive Certificate. 


The city also introduced the new Grants and Projects Administrator who began work last week.

My Two Cents

The hue and cry about commercialization (by accepting grant monies from a private business)  from the city rang a bit hollow to me. I remember clearly the first proposed plans from the city for Memorial Field that featured very tall flags on poles outside the gates. It was clearly stated that the flags were designed for business promotion.  The flags were not included in the final plans because the neighborhood did not want them.

Also, I don’t understand why more research wasn’t done on the Pet Safe “Bark for Your Park” grants to get an idea of what their signage looks like. I googled the name and easily found a listing of grant recipients,  then I searched the web for photos of the signs.  I found nothing questionable or too commercial about the signs. As a matter of fact,  and the one on wrought iron is very much like the “Welcome to Sandpoint” sign off the byway that the city commissioned. 

     

I would rather see a tasteful sign like this on a local dog park and know that my tax dollars weren’t spent to fund something I can’t use (unless they’re open to cats on leashes). What about a community funding drive? Even though a dog park benefits me in no way, I’d be glad to contribute to it.  Why is this city so fond of spending taxpayer money?

And why does it seem that everything requiring a monetary decision is always a rush. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone tell the city council that a decision has to be made quickly because the deadline was approaching (usually in one or two weeks).

Anita Aurit is the owner and operator of
The Office Sandpoint.