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Park place

by Tom Hasslinger
| December 29, 2010 8:00 PM

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Doug Eastwood, City of Coeur d'Alene Parks director, describes some advantages of a possible land purchase in regards to plans for a possible recreation area.

COEUR d'ALENE - The goal is to create another Tubbs Hill-type recreation area for the public.

Before that can happen, the city of Coeur d'Alene would have to purchase seven acres of platted land that's for sale to put in parking, trailheads, and benches for hikers and nature lovers.

The parks department is proposing to do just that.

"Tell me," said Doug Eastwood, parks director, touring the views surrounding the seven acres for sale on the south side of Fernan Lake off Potlatch Hill Road, overlooking Lake Coeur d'Alene to the south, Fernan Lake to the east, and Canfield Mountain to the north. "What is the price on that?"

The asking price is $462,500.

Already in the city's possession is 47 acres on the adjacent hill.

It sits across from Theis Lane in Fernan inside Coeur d'Alene's city boundary near the Kootenai County boat launch. Its former owners, Jim Elder, Pat Acuff and Doug Potter, deeded the scenic land to the city and the East Side Highway District in 2009 at no cost.

A stipulation to the gift was that the city maintain the hill in a natural state for the public's use, similar to how the city preserves Tubbs Hill. Now Elder, Acuff and Potter want to sell the remaining seven acres to the city to use as a meeting site for visitors to the hiking hill once it's accessible by foot.

"It would be perfect," Eastwood said.

Right now, there aren't trails, trailheads or parking access at the Fernan site, and a timeline for getting the hill built out isn't on the books, either. But Eastwood said the proposed purchase site could be where hikers converge before setting out on trails the city plans to build around the hill.

The platted land and adjacent hill was annexed into the city around 15 years ago with residential zoning. A developer had purchased the land a few years ago with the intent to build what could have been up to 160 units on the hill.

After bankruptcy court stalled the company's plans, Elder, Acuff and Potter purchased the piece to prevent residential dwellings from ever overtaking it. They kept the seven acres at the top of the hill for a possible subdivision, before giving the 47 acres to the city.

A downturn in the development market squashed plans to ever build on the land, city staff reports, so they offered it to the city.

The owners couldn't be reached Tuesday, but reports state that it was valued at $750,000 a few years ago. It was recently appraised at $475,000 before the sides agreed to the $462,000 total.

On Monday, the General Services Committee recommended the city buy the land.

The agreement would pay $150,000 up front, and pay the remainder over five years at $62,500 per year. The funds would come out of the Parks Capital Improvement Fund, which is a self-generating fund from impact and user fees that goes to land acquisition.

City Attorney Mike Gridley said the city purchasing from the donors doesn't present a conflict of interest. General Services Committeeman Ron Edinger inquired if it would since the owners had contributed financially to the committeeman's campaigns in the past.

Elder is also a volunteer on city commissions.

The purchase will go before the City Council at 6 p.m. Jan. 4.

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