U of I Boyer Land Sale Workshop
High Density, Here We Come
Part 1 of 2
Sandpoint City Council Meeting, September 6th, 2017
by Anita Aurit
This meeting was chock full of excitement. It began with a workshop at 5:30pm and was finally ended after 9:00pm, after council voted to move several items to the next council meeting. The workshop regarding the U of I land deserves it’s own post so here goes.
Keep in mind that these workshops have much back and forth, questions and answers and much information is tossed out to the audience. The “Readers Digest” version is as follows.
The U of I intends to “dispose of the property located on Boyer.” The U of I representative noted that this land sale doesn’t reflect any lack of commitment to Sandpoint.
The city spoke about their plans which included:
- The city’s assessment of the communities needs and desires
- What kinds of uses would be feasible, currently the land is zoned single family residential and there is some wetlands located there as well
- The city planner stated the question they needed to answer was “how do we make sure future development meets the needs of the community/”
- The Planning and Zoning committee will be holding a number of workshops (and I would highly recommend we attend). The first will be Sept. 19th. There will be a workshop on 9/27 on site for a tour of the property and surrounding areas. Other workshops will be held Oct. 17th, a steering committee will be established in December and a December 6th public hearing will be held for the city council to begin to look at adoption of the plan recommended. Another public workshop will be held March 17th
- The city stated that the original land use was to be considered as an extension of downtown.
Again, with all the back and forth it is hard for me to capture all that was said. One member of the audience quoted Henry David Thoreau to state his support for keeping the land undeveloped.
There was tension in the back and forth regarding the U of I’s position as seller and the city’s position as potential buyer. The mayor said that “Regardless of how the land is disposed of, even if someone else buys it, it’s ultimately the university’s decision who to sell it to.
Someone brought up the fact that the land had been originally gifted to the U of I and would the university consider gifting the land to another entity. The response was no, they can’t gift it.
Discussion ensued about the original purpose/intention of the gift. Also noted was that the university has not paid any taxes on that property. Someone reminded the U of I representative that “the Clark Fork issue was a debacle and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.” I do not know to what he was referring. I know there was a closure of a Clark Fork field campus but am not familiar with the details. Councilwoman Ruehle spoke about the history of the land that it was gifted by the family of the Humbird Mill and was to be used for “the public good” for a 100 year period. That period ended 4-5 years ago. She noted that she wanted to share the context of the gifting of the land as it had historical significance.
A few more suggestions were made regarding the “gifting” of the campus and the U of I representative reiterated that they were not prepared to give the land away. Someone asked if there was anything preventing the university from selling a part of the land for $1.00. The answer was “no” but that would not be good stewardship on the university’s part.
A master’s student from U of I spoke regarding the need for a collegiate presence in Sandpoint. She said NIC does not fulfill the higher education needs. She also noted that there was a rumor that the U of I was looking to take the profit from the sale of this property to fund a large cattle program in southern Idaho. She also said that she believes the U of I is going broke.
The end product of this research will be an RFP. Jeremy Grimm, program officer of the LOR Foundation asked if there was an RFP model U of I was using and the answer was “no”.
Councilwoman Williamson suggested that perhaps the terminology “dispose of “when referring to the U of I property might create adverse emotion as people in this community are passionate about the land.
The U of I representative was asked if the university had gone through a similar process anywhere else and he responded that he didn’t think so.
Someone asked if the zoning could change and the mayor responded that could happen depending on what Planning & Zoning considered its best use but any change in zoning would follow the RFP process. Aaron Qualls of Planning and Zoning said the RFP would bind the developer.
The U of I representative said there was no specific plan to fund another campus with the money of the sale of this property, “at least no specific plans I know about.”
When Councilman Camp made the comment that it would make sense that U of I would want to sell to the highest bidder so would all of this planning be a moot point if a developer comes in and offers an attractive price?
The mayor said, “There are ways we can bring value to this property, through SURA and zoning. The current single family zoning doesn’t bring the most money.” He went on to say that a change in zoning to high density, urban, mixed use, etc. would add value.
My Two Cents
The city kept using the term, “the U of I land and surrounding area.” When I asked what surrounding area I was told to come to the September 19th workshop to find out. I would say if you live in the vicinity of this land (as I do) you will definitely want to attend the September 19th workshop. Methinks something is afoot, especially since they only recently changed city ordinance regarding density of cottage housing units and “pocket neighborhoods” and doubled the density allowance from 12 to 24. At the time these changes were proposed Qualls mentioned that two developers were interested in building these communities.
IMHO the fix has been in for a long time. Qualls is always citing the lack of affordable housing, which begs the question, why is the city ignoring that HUGE apartment complex behind Super 1? I’m sure the city is already counting their cash and I suggest that all those interested get involved before they (in the immortal words of Joni Mitchell) “take Paradise and put up a parking lot” (or in our case massive amounts of houses.
I did find an interesting Facebook page called “Friends of University of Idaho Boyer” with some fantastic photos of how the land has been used for recreation. My husband and I will miss cross country skiing there in the winter.
The attitude of the University has definitely changed since this article (Bonner County Daily Bee) was written in 2013 when it was stated, “However, Charles Buck, the director of the University of Idaho’s northern facilities, believes community partnerships and a mixed-use operational philosophy may be the keys to resurrecting the property. Between the opening of The Box Golf Training Center and the hosting of a cyclocross competition, this weekend provided a potential preview for what that future could look like.” Ah well, everyone needs to make a buck. It was great while it lasted.
Anita Aurit is the owner and operator of
The Office Sandpoint.
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