Saturday, May 08, 2021

Charting a course for good growth

| April 11, 2021 1:00 AM

Anyone believing their pleas for smart growth have been falling on deaf ears, here’s a sweet sound: It’s the sound of having been heard.

More than that, it’s a promising development for all those concerned with runaway development.

Formation of what’s being called the Regional Housing and Growth Issues Partnership might be new, explained Hilary Anderson, community planning director for Coeur d’Alene, but the subject sure isn’t.

“For a number of years, regional planning professionals have shared resources and been in communication about growth management, housing, transportation and have worked together on related planning issues,” Anderson writes. “This past year has brought more awareness to these concerns as in-migration numbers and housing prices have increased, and the COVID-19 pandemic has seemingly contributed to the challenges we face.”

With Council Member Kiki Miller, Anderson has helped more formally bring together the largest cities in the county, the county itself and the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization. But now the fledgling group is taking it a big step further, bringing in a robust and diverse advisory group.

“The Advisory Group will be comprised of representatives from a variety of organizations and community groups concerned with growth and housing in our area, who are willing to work together to come up with possible solutions,” Anderson writes. “This is still in the initial stages of development and additional Advisory Group members may be invited along the way.”

So far, the following organizations have been invited to participate. The list is impressive both in its depth and in its cross-pollination of diverse interests:

Kootenai Environmental Alliance; Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA);

Panhandle Area Housing Alliance (formerly Idaho Housing Coalition); Habitat for Humanity; Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber; Post Falls Chamber; Rathdrum Chamber; Hayden Chamber;

CDAIDE; CDA-EDC (Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corporation — Jobs Plus); ALICE Task Force; North Idaho Building Contractors Association (NIBCA); Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS (CAR); Responsible North Idaho Growth (FB group); We the People of CDA (FB group); Lakeshore Property Owners Association;

Coeur d’Alene Press Growth Management Advisory Group; Coeur d’Alene School District; Post Falls School District; Lakeland School District; North Idaho College; Kootenai Health; Northwest Specialty Hospital; Working Lands/Agriculture groups (TBD).

All meetings will be recorded and made available to the public. They’re scheduled to last one hour, once each month. The Press will also have a reporter covering every meeting.

Some of the hot-button topics to be discussed include FAQs about growth and housing; possible housing solutions; transportation projects; regional open space/buffer/greenbelt between cities on the prairie and discussion of possible mechanisms to accomplish this goal; water conservation; impacts on schools; and possibly legislative action needs.

Combining experts in their fields with a dynamic cross-section of concerned citizens and organizations offers no guarantee of change, but optimism runs high with this turbo-charged group tackling the most challenging subjects facing our community. Here’s hoping the ride, which at times may be bumpy, will be worth it.