Sunday, April 11, 2021

Growing every day

Staff Writer | April 7, 2021 1:09 AM

Post Falls' breakneck growth has — on a city level — been years in the making. With several projects on the horizon, community development staff are preparing for a much larger River City.

In a workshop with city staff and council members, Community Development Director Bob Seale gave an overview of how Post Falls has and will continue to grow in 2021.

Since the 1980s, the River City's growth has been a swelling force. The 1990s saw a noticeable jump in annexations leading to the 2000 movement toward Stateline. Then, Seale said, Post Falls started growing north, reaching Hayden.

"We are looking at historical population growth," Seale said. "Everybody notices it, we're growing now, and we have been growing for many years."

Seale said expanding the territory had to happen, but the growth is planned practically through the city's comprehensive plan recently revamped and approved last year. Within the document, Post Falls has several designations and areas that are transitional, commercial, residential, and industrial.

Outside city limits, the city's exclusive tier area is where the city has space for new projects. Inside that area, there are still 3,391 acres of transitional space, 885 residential acres, 512 commercial/mixed-use acres, 315 business/industrial acres, 224 commercial acres, and 110 acres aside for medium density developments, and 645 public reserve areas for growing crops like grass or alfalfa.

Seale noted that there is still space within city limits that is annexed and zoned but currently not yet planned.

The idea of more development has raised public alarms recently, and it is not often the City Council holds a meeting without a cry for slowing the approval of construction. However, the rate of new homes is still insufficient to shelter the number of people moving into the city.

"Looking back over the last five years, we've added enough housing units to support approximately 11,670 people," Seale said. "That's in five years. The city of Rathdrum itself is only about 8,200 (people)."

Based on the average household size and the number of dwelling units constructed last year, Seale estimated that Post Falls added enough housing units to provide 3,470 people. Still, the city's vacancy rate remains low, with approximately 5.8% for single-family homes and multifamily units ranging from .5% to 2.2%.

"No matter what we do, it just continues to stay low," Seale said. "Anecdotally, looking at the area, rental rates and things along those lines, the multifamily (vacancy rate) is still sticking, I believe it is even below 1%."

The number of newly permitted dwellings is on the rise, with 1,363 reported in 2020, 466 of those being single families. There aren't many duplexes or townhomes currently being constructed, creating a lack of middle-income housing that Seale said the city hopes to see soon.

However, last year, several apartment complexes were approved or completed, like the Parkside Apartments, Spencer Place Apartments, River Falls Apartments, Bel Cielo Apartments, and Remington Apartments.

In the future, the city has already begun updating the City Center Master Plan from its previous 2005 edition.

"The downtown plan pretty much reflects what it is that we want to see for downtown. It just hasn't come to fruition yet," Seale said. "We will begin to see that as the landings are beginning to take off and create this downtown that we've been hoping to see for many years."

Many additional projects are pending within the community development department, Seale said in his presentation, referencing a list of 24 projects that are in Post Falls' future.

Some of the projects include:

• Metro Express Carwash

• Sysco Transportation Facility

• Post Falls Food Court

• Highlands Home — Assisted Living Facility

• Shopping Center on the northeast corner of Highway 41 and Prairie Avenue (beginning construction in 12 months)

• St. Joseph's Ear, Nose, and Throat

• Approximately 95 single-family homes currently awaiting permit

"We're growing, we're changing, we're evolving," Seale said. "There's a lot of good stuff that has happened in the city, and we are starting to see the benefits of that."