Things Are Gonna’ Change
Sandpoint City Council – July 19, 2017
by Anita Aurit
The meeting began with a public workshop regarding the BID (Business Improvement District)
Roger Woodworth, the consultant hired by the city (and paid with BID funds) presented his findings from numerous workshops held, one on one interviews and his own extensive research. Local business owners were in attendance.
Woodworth concluded that the BID, as it exists and as it has existed does not function and that the overwhelming consensus was that it could not continue in its present form. The majority of the businesses stated that flower baskets and Christmas lights were an asset and some suggested other ways to fund these without a BID organization. I suggested that since those costs are fixed the cost be distributed and applied to the business license cost. Woodworth presented two recommendations to the council. Either keep the BID, set the fees to zero and work on a plan and outline that would better serve the businesses or, Disestablish the BID and those businesses who want a BID will organize in benefit areas.
After the workshop, the regular meeting was called to order.
A representative from the Historic Preservation Commission announced that downtown walking tour brochures were finished and on August 5 and 12 free tours would be conducted (starting point is the Panida). This is a wonderful idea. I have done many walking tours all around the world and it’s a fantastic way for people to enjoy and learn about our town and doesn’t require a burdensome financial contribution from the city and tax payers.
The city attorney Scot Campbell announced that the state supreme court upheld Governor Otter’s veto on the cessation of the grocery tax. Campbell’s comment was, “This has a huge effect on Memorial Field.”
Councilwoman Ruehle asked about enforcement of cyclists riding on the sidewalk and if truck route signs could be put up to keep trucks off Boyer. She also asked about exchanging some of the yield signs to stop signs and shrub growth over the “Sandpoint Is A Walking Town” sign located across from the chamber.
Short Term Rental Regulations – Things Are Gonna’ Change
Aaron Qualls presented new and changed regulation proposals regarding short term rentals in Sandpoint. He said that short term rentals have doubled since 2005. He said that people in Sandpoint spend over 50% of their pay on housing and that Sandpoint rentals average $1200.00-$1400.00 per month. There are concerns about neighborhood integrity with short term rentals such as noise and traffic and there are enforcement challenges with short term rentals (many are operating illegally and the city has no budget for enforcement).
Due to House Bill 216 that takes effect on January 16th, vacation rentals are now considered residential use and the city codes must reflect this. Qualls recommended keeping the 300 foot buffer for primary dwelling units and suggested the council consider whether accessory dwelling units be exempted in residential areas. And, if exempted should the code require the main unit be owner occupied.
He proposed that although licenses are now required the council create specific standards for vacation rentals. He also suggested the council consider building code standards and proposed initial inspections should be done for vacation rentals and then perhaps an annual inspection.
Qualls sugge4sted one owner per vacation rental unit in residential zones but city attorney Campbell responded that since this is now a permitted property, property rights come into player. One owner per vacation unit may not be legally defensible.
Qualls proposed that the inactivity clause be worded as inactivity consisting of 12 nights within 12 months so that it might help someone offer a year lease without losing their status for a vacation unit.
Public input on vacation rentals came from one individual who moved her from Portland and who talked about the problems they’d experienced with vacation rentals in their neighborhood. Someone else stated that although we need tourist dollars having strangers in our residential areas frightens many and the issue is very complex. He said the city had to consider private property rights and that there are already a myriad of city ordinances regarding vacation rentals. He suggested the city enforce those ordinances in existence. He said that the long term rental shortage has nothing to do with short term rentals. Several people testified that the 300 foot buffer was important.
A public hearing will be conducted on this topic September 6th.
Accessory Dwelling Regulations Changes
Qualls presentation was to provide standards for accessory dwelling units to detached single-family dwellings. He noted that “These standards are intended to encourage diversity in housing types and provide for smaller, more diverse and often more affordable housing choices that are compatible with existing neighborhoods.
Cottage Housing in Sandpoint
Qualls final presentation was about cottage housing and the need for smaller more diverse housing. The proposal to amend the ordinance increasing the maximum number of units allowed and increasing density standards was approved by the council.
Proposed New Fees 2018
There will be a public hearing on August 16th for an annual review of the budget and fees. There are changes in business license fees proposed removing the requirement that a license be cancelled and a new license issued when a business moves or otherwise updates their business information. The proposal is to charge a $25.00 business update fee.
The key deposit for Community Hall will be changed to $100.00 which is refundable. Also an increase in rental fee for Community Hall is being proposed.
Background check fee for pawn licenses will be $60.00
A new fee structure for gas mechanical permit fees is being suggested as well. Hydrant permit fee structure will be revamped. Memorial Field events use fee will be changed. Councilman Aitken requested that different venues would be considered regarding fees (i.e., a football game versus a Festival event). Other increases suggested are for moorage fees, parks areas (picnic shelters, volleyball, etc.)
This was a looooong presentation so I will give you some of the highlights; the narrative budget is available online http://www.cityofsandpoint.com/home/showdocument?id=6589 I encourage everyone to read this document as it not only provides budget information but presents the city’s future goals and other interesting facts and statistics.
Keep in mind all the figures and proposed budget items will not be effective or actual until the public budget presentation. Stapleton recommended that the council adopt the full maximum budget as reductions could always be made but not additions. The council did vote to adopt the preliminary maximum budget.
- The 2018 proposed maximum budget is over $40 million
- The employee line item of Deputy Finance Director will be eliminated when the current Finance Director retires and the Deputy Finance Director is moved to that position.
- The legal department shows an increase although the department cut back one part time position to fund one full time position\
- Some seasonal positions for Parks Department were culled and a new full time position created
- Personal property taxes; the city is limited to collecting an additional 3% in property taxes. The resort city tax stipulates that if the city has an overage in collections, the overage goes in the property tax relief fund. The city’s overage collection for this year was $11,000.00. This amount will be used to reduce property tax increases.
Again, I urge you to take a look at the narrative budget online. Jennifer Stapleton will meet with the members of the council prior to the next regularly scheduled meeting to address any questions, concerns, they may have.
My Two Cents
I was hopeful after the BID workshop and felt a bit like Dorothy when she spied the Emerald City from far down the Yellow Brick Road…could it be? Will it happen? Will this divisive, anger inducing, taxation without representation finally be coming to an end? I am an eternal optimist so until the next city council meeting, I’ll be humming “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Although my recap of the budget was short I commend Jennifer Stapleton for putting together something so informative and a document that allows the taxpayer to see where money is being spent, what departments are spending the most, what the city’s vision is for the future and what the financial snapshot is of revenue and expenses. For those of you who aren’t fond of financial statements, do not despair, there are graphs, charts and narrative as well). I am still not a fan of the increase for elected officials but will wait to see what the final recommendation is about this before I go on any rants.
Anita Aurit is the owner and operator of
The Office Sandpoint.
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