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Opportunity Lost in Post Falls

by Bruce Kelly
| May 26, 2020 1:00 AM

Back in February, the Press reported on something called the “Opportunity Zone” in Post Falls, a stretch of development-ready properties along the south side of I-90 from Spokane Street east to Highway 41. It was described as encompassing “residential, commercial, and park lands.” Three months later, it looks more like a case of Opportunity Lost. One of several such cases in Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, and the surrounding county.

Drive along Seltice today and you’ll see nothing but new houses, apartment buildings, and townhomes filling up every available space in the Opportunity Zone for almost a mile and a half. In just the past few years in Post Falls, we’ve seen commercial lots in the Opportunity Zone get re-zoned to allow high-density residential instead of being developed for businesses that could provide long-term jobs.

The city refers to this new sprawl as “workforce housing.” Where are all of these people going to work? Aside from a growing medical sector and a few small pockets of light manufacturing, Post Falls offers mostly part-time, low-wage, no-benefits jobs in retail and restaurants. It’s no wonder that so many folks have to hop onto I-90 or Trent each morning on their way to true opportunity zones offering better pay.

A fair number of people moving here do find work in the trades of home-building and home-selling. Which means they’re helping to perpetuate and accelerate the spread of suburban blight that seems destined to cover every patch of land from the Spokane River north to Rathdrum. Which also means they’re quickly finding themselves surrounded by the kind of over-crowding and clogged roadways that they came here to escape from. Kootenai County has not quite reached the congestion of Orange County, but acre-for-acre, it’s getting close. And with infrastructure that’s simply not prepared to handle it.

The city of Post Falls is failing not just its current and newly-arriving workforce, it’s failing the next generation of employable citizens, its students. Most of the kids (they’re now in their 20s) that my two kids went through school with have moved out of state, or at least out of Post Falls, because there was nothing here for them after they graduated from high school or college.

Young parents who are moving here for a better life for their children had better plan now for the day when their children must move away, to a place where the right combination of housing and job opportunities exists. In Post Falls, those opportunities are slim to none.

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Bruce Kelly is a Post Falls resident.