Rathdrum-Post Falls land deal in danger

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Staff writer

There may be a sticking point over a proposed 314-acre, $4.72 million land purchase agreement between the cities of Post Falls and Rathdrum. The deal is proposed to address long-term wastewater treatment for the two cities.

The Rathdrum City Council this evening will consider an agreement to sell the large tract to the city of Post Falls. The land is at the northwest intersection of Greensferry Road and Hayden Avenue.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. at Rathdrum City Hall, 8047 W. Main St.

Under terms of the agreement, the city of Post Falls would pay Rathdrum $4.72 million for the property. The deal is contingent on Rathdrum de-annexing the land, something the City Council has voiced reservations about, said Rathdrum city administrator Leon Duce.

“My gut reaction is that they’re not going to accept the offer,” Duce said Tuesday.

For years, the property has been considered a key part of the solution to long-term wastewater treatment for the cities. In this case, a land application process would spread effluent over the farmland.

Post Falls public works director John Beacham said de-annexation of the land is an important part of the agreement.

“If we use that property for land application, we would want our ordinance authority to regulate use,” Beacham said. “Having it within the city (of Post Falls) would allow us to do that.”

Post Falls Mayor Ron Jacobson said de-annexation of the land is a logical step, calling it a critical aspect of the land deal.

“If it’s going to be (Post Falls’) property for land application it just makes sense for it to be within the city,” Jacobson said.

Rathdrum Mayor Vic Holmes said the de-annexation stipulation may not fly with his council.

“I’m sure it could be a deal breaker,” Holmes said. “I can see where the council has a tough decision to make.”

Holmes said Rathdrum potentially has a lot to lose by de-annexing the property.

“It would block us from moving west. Do we really want Post Falls at the western gateway to Rathdrum?” the mayor asked. “And if it doesn’t end up being used for land application and it develops, why wouldn’t Rathdrum want it?”

De-annexing would surrender a potentially lucrative tax base for Rathdrum, Holmes said.

Holmes added: “There may be some good things that outweigh the potential bad. The council needs to talk about it.”

While both cities agree the site should be set aside for land application, Beacham said it will probably be many years before growth necessitates it.

Sewage from both cities is treated at the Post Falls wastewater treatment facility and released into the Spokane River. Rathdrum is a customer to Post Falls.

As both cities continue to experience rapid growth, Beacham said the treatment plant is experiencing an influx of sewage.

Over the past five years, the treatment facility has seen flow increase half a million gallons daily, from 2.3 million to 2.8 million.

Beacham said land application probably won’t be necessary until the sewer plant reaches a capacity of 8.1 million gallons per day. The public works director estimated that would come when the combined population of the cities reaches 128,000 — in about 20 to 30 years.

Duce emphasized that the cities enjoy a close working relationship and that cooperation will continue.

“Rathdrum has been interested in selling the property because we’d like to use the funds to build a new City Hall, so there are definite benefits,” Duce said.

If the deal is rejected, negotiations will continue.

“Just like any other real estate deal, you can accept or refuse,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the buyer won’t come back with another offer or the seller won’t make a counter-offer.”

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