Mayor: Time to reel in PF residential growth

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LOREN BENOIT/Press Post Falls Mayor Ron Jacobson addresses community leaders during the State of the City lunch Tuesday at Red Lion Hotel Templin’s on the River in Post Falls.

KMPO: Population explosion expected

The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization estimates Post Falls’ population will skyrocket to 103,908 by the year 2040, well ahead of the projection for Coeur d’Alene of 84,943 in the same year.

“I hope they’re wrong,” Mayor Ron Jacobson said Tuesday. “I did that math and in order to achieve that we would need to have an average of 866 single-family permits every year and a total of 6,115 multi-family permits. I don’t know if that’s sustainable.”

The mayor estimates the city may issue 600 single-family permits this year. And while multi-family may keep pace with KMPO’s projection, he doubts single-family housing will meet the organization’s forecast.

By KEITH ERICKSON Staff Writer

The ongoing building boom in Post Falls is lopsided in favor of new housing, leading Mayor Ron Jacobson to say it’s time to “tap the brakes” on residential growth.

During his sixth State of the City address, the second-term mayor said Tuesday he doesn’t believe the rampant residential growth can be sustained and is placing a disproportionate tax burden on homeowners.

Building permits for single-family homes jumped from 366 in 2017 to 543 last year, Jacobson said. And current permit activity is on pace to eclipse last year’s numbers with 511 permits issued through October — and 15 approved just last week.

Multi-family growth is even stronger with 285 permits issued in 2018 and nearly double that already in 2019 with 496 multi-family permits so far this year.

“I’ve publicly stated that I’m concerned with the number of multi-family units being built. Not because I don’t like apartments. I’m just concerned what the appropriate number is for Post Falls and how long it can be sustainable.”

Jacobson said heavier emphasis is needed on commercial growth.

“We don’t have a lot of commercial going on right now,” the mayor told a sold-out group of about 200 people attending the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce’s Connect4 Lunch at Red Lion Templin’s.

“While I’d like to tap my brake a little bit on the combined residential permits issued, it’s all supply and demand — and the demand is what’s driving this. It’s not the city,” Jacobson said.

“On the commercial side, my goal is to try to increase the commercial tax base in order to take some of the burden off the residential taxpayers,” he added. “And that really hasn’t happened to date. The commercial tax base is not where I’d like it to be.”

The mayor did voice optimism on broadening the tax base through endeavors such as an urban renewal technology zone created by the city last year. The developer for that project is marketing the site for advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and data storage companies.

The project area is within the 831-acre Post Falls Technology Park Urban Renewal District, which straddles state Route 41 north of Prairie Avenue.

“As yet, nothing has happened, but we’re being told there are things in the offing,” Jacobson said. “In the long run, we’re told that particular development could create 5,000 to 10,000 jobs and if it all comes to fruition, we’re talking $885 million in capital expenditures added to the tax base.”

Jacobson said with the rapid growth Post Falls is experiencing, good planning is critical. He outlined several areas the city is working on to guide healthy growth. These include:

• The transportation master plan adopted by the city in February 2018. This plan was developed to support economic growth and vitality in Post Falls and to address and improve all modes of transportation including vehicle, bike, pedestrian and transit.

• Comprehensive planning map update. Currently in the development stages, this plan will provide a blueprint for growth over the next several years by outlining community goals and policies.

• Parks master plan update for the city’s 29 parks. Jacobson said this is in final draft stage and includes plans for a sports complex that is expected to go to bid next year with construction in 2021-22. The 25-acre sports complex site south of Prairie Avenue and west of Charleville Road will include five or six lighted ballfields.

• Wastewater treatment master plan. This update will begin in 2020. It will include a rate study and financial plan for projects needed to keep the city’s wastewater collection system in compliance with state and federal environmental regulations. Over the next several years, the city will spend $120 million on required upgrades to maintain compliance.

“As a city, we often hear when people talk about growth, they say you haven’t done enough planning. You haven’t taken certain things into consideration.

“Yes, we have,” Jacobson said. “And we will continue to do so.”

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