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Big development hearing in PF Tuesday

| December 20, 2010 11:32 AM

By BRIAN WALKER

POST FALLS — Citizens, the real estate sector and businesses are speaking out about a 108-acre annexation request on the Rathdrum Prairie for a project that would include 450 single-family lots, 200 multi-family lots and commercial.

A public hearing on the annex request at the northwest corner of Spokane Street and Prairie Avenue will be held during Tuesday's Post Falls City Council meeting that starts at 6 p.m.

Coeur d'Alene-based MCD Properties, which consists of principles Chuck Lempesis, John Magnuson and Tom Anderl, touts the Ashworth project as putting the construction industry back to work and offering affordable homes.

But others have concerns the project is too dense for north of Prairie and wouldn't fit in with existing larger surrounding lots.

"With Prairie Avenue being a major roadway, the subdivisions to the south of Prairie have little in common with any land north of Prairie," wrote Vince and Michelle Hughes, who have multiple family members who live next to the proposal. "Post Falls has numerous tracks of land south of Prairie Avenue, which are not rural in nature, that lend themselves to development of subdivisions.

"Unless performed in a reasonable manner, the Ashworth annexation and development could significantly change the rural lifestyle we chose almost 20 years ago."

Jen and Walt Eastman said putting people to work sounds great, but wonder if it's just a temporary fix and if it'll be another case of a large subdivision that goes cold.

"Those houses will sit there along with all the other houses that are sitting on the market because no one can afford to buy a new house," the couple wrote. "With so many houses available, it doesn't make sense to further saturate the market. It doesn't make sense to throw apartment buildings on the edge of town in a more rural setting."

The projects also has its share of supporters.

Jim Koon, associate broker for Century 21 said it is "by farm one of the most thought-out and sensible residential developments I have seen in Kootenai County."

"Prairie Avenue is geared to be one of our most efficient east/west corridors," Koon said. "The surrounding residential and golf course developments complement Ashworth and the opportunity to have entry-level housing couldn't come at a better time."

Developer John DeVries also supports the plan.

"Knowing the financial times and difficulties faced, we can only applaud the positive efforts of the applicant to move forward, braving the storms of financial upheaval in a positive manner," DeVries said.

More than 6 acres of open space, including pocket parks and a bus stop, and a network of trails are planned, along with 20,000 square feet of commercial or office space on 3 acres.

Lempesis said that, if the annexation is approved, he expects construction to start around March. Homes will be built based on pre-sales. The project is proposed to be phased over seven years.

The planning commission decided to not make a recommendation on the annexation.

The council allowed the project to enter the public hearing process on July 1, 2008. Lempesis said the formal annexation request was delayed until the city finished its SmartCode, the new land use guide that encourages pedestrian-friendly mixed-use villages and is intended to avoid sprawl.

In other business, the council will:

n decide whether to disband or continue the Historical Preservation Commission;

n hold a public hearing on a 24-acre annexation request south of Prairie and west of Highway 41 by the Ross Point Water District and Post Falls Highway District;

n hold a public hearing on a zone change for 109 acres in The Pointe at Post Falls from industrial to community commercial services for future retail, office and multi-family uses; and

n consider an agreement with the Urban Renewal Agency to construct a paved pedestrian trail on the east side of Highway 41 from Seltice Way to Mullan Avenue.

The trail is estimated to cost $725,000. The URA would pay for construction and materials, while the city would manage the project. It hasn't been determined if the city or Idaho Transportation Department would maintain the trail.

Mayor Larkin will appoint Charity Cynova as the city clerk to replace Carol Fairhurst on Jan. 16. Fairhurst is retiring. Cynova currently works in the city's finance department.

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