Rathdrum proposes 450-acre annexation

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The City of Rathdrum is initiating a 450-acre annexation of property owned by Ragnar Arestad in anticipation of Highway 41 being widened in 2020 and 2021 and to control the future of its south entrance. The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Wednesday on the request. (Graphic by Josh Montreuil/Press)

By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

RATHDRUM — The beat goes on for large annexation requests in Rathdrum.

The latest proposal is 450 acres on both sides of Highway 41 south of the city between Wyoming Avenue and Lancaster Road, with commercial and residential zoning.

"This is a city-initiated request," City Administrator Leon Duce said. "It is not being requested by the property owner. We're asking for it to be annexed and the owner (Ragnar Arestad) is agreeable to that."

Duce said no development is scheduled and there are no plans to sell the property now.

He said the city is interested in the annexation with an eye to plan for the future in anticipation of Highway 41 being widened to four lanes from Mullan Avenue in Post Falls to Boekel Road in Rathdrum. That should happen in 2020 and 2021.

"We know that the state is going to be widening out Highway 41, and that area is an important entry point for the city of Rathdrum," Duce said. "We want to have it zoned appropriately so that, when it's developed, it is to city standards.

"We want the first impression when people enter the city to be positive."

Duce said the annexation would give the city more control over planning for its entrance's future.

"We have no control of it if it's not in city limits," he said. "When there's a need for planning, the city can initiate the annexation."

He said city-initiated annexations are not common in North Idaho, but they are also not rare statewide. Cities generally wait for developers to initiate annexations so those developers fund the infrastructure for the developments.

Rathdrum's Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 8047 W. Main St. The board will forward a recommendation on to the City Council, which will also hold a hearing and decide the proposal's fate.

The original public hearing was canceled because the legal notice that was published was incorrect.

While this would be Rathdrum's largest annexation in more than 20 years, it's not the largest in the city's history. The property involving Rathdrum Power annexed in 1994 was more than 700 acres.

The request comes on the heels of two other large annexation requests being approved.

Bluegrass Development's 152-acre annexation near the southeast corner of Meyer and Lancaster roads for a residential project was approved on Wednesday. Beyond Green's 113-acre request with light industrial and multi-family zoning at the southeast corner of Lancaster and Greensferry roads near the Rathdrum Power plant was approved last month.

Some residents have voiced concerns that such large annexations could hamper Rathdrum's small-town feel.

Duce called Arestad a "friend of the city," having donated an acre for a water well along Highway 41 and an acre for a lift station on Greensferry Road.

"He's been really good to work with," Duce said.

Duce said cities can force annexations onto property owners, but this isn't such a case at all.

"That's not the way we work with people who live within the city," he said.

The proposal for Arestad's property is for commercial along Highway 41, Lancaster and Wyoming and residential behind those areas. The southeast corner of Lancaster and Highway 41 and the property west of Highway 41 directly south of Lancaster are not a part of the request.

The entire proposed annexation area is vacant, within Rathdrum's area of city impact and has a long-range planning designation as "transformational."

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