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Cd'A comp plan may include focus on affordable housing, lake health

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | February 4, 2021 1:07 AM

Coeur d’Alene planners have turned their focus to affordable housing, child care, equity and inclusion, and the health of Lake Coeur d’Alene as the city develops its comprehensive plan.

Planners and consultants have presented those four community issues to Coeur d’Alene’s City Council to update their progress and ask for direction as the city develops drafts of what they hope will eventually turn into an updated comprehensive plan.

The four focus issues were the result of surveys taken over the summer for what represents the most important issues on the city’s plate as they move forward with looking to update a plan.

“The Planning Commission looked at the policy framework,” said Alex Dupey, director of planning services for the consulting group MIG. “They looked at … the principles, goals, objectives and actions, they looked at public input as a result [of] the public survey we had this summer for each of those principles, they looked at the top actions the community said was the most important, which helped us prioritize that further …

"After that, we asked the planning commission where they thought this framework was in terms of being able to move it forward within the process."

One option on the table is to combine the guiding documents created by Coeur d’Alene 2030 to help accelerate the planning process.

“The crux of this strategy to combine the plans is to take the comprehensive plan, which needs an update, and add it to the envisioning document Coeur d’Alene 2030 administers,” said Sean Holm, senior planner for the city. “This strategy to combine the two documents helps to meet the state of Idaho’s requirements for comprehensive plans, in this case the implementation requirement, and provides for a one-stop shop where all this information may be found.”

The Idaho Local Land Use Planning Act requires that cities either address or justify leaving out 17 separate topics, four of which Holm said the highlighted topics cover. Those 17 topics were a source of consternation among some members of the City Council, Dan Gookin included.

“I can’t believe the Legislature came up with that,” Gookin said. “To me, it should be about land use, period. But they did, so this is required.”

Gookin, the lone dissent in the council’s vote to move forward, said he doesn’t see the value in adding CDA 2030 into the city’s equation, saying the group’s document reads as too vague for the city to consider as a guide moving forward. Gookin cited phrases like "diverse employment" and "advancement opportunities."

“To me, it doesn’t quite hit the mark,” he said. “It says in here on the draft of the plan, ‘Vision of Coeur d’Alene: City of Excellence.’ And then it goes on for a few sentences to describe Coeur d’Alene, and it is just generic. There is not a single city in the country that you couldn’t apply this to or who would want this.”

Officials involved in the comprehensive plan have already focused on things like growing jobs and encouraging affordable housing. But council and Mayor Steve Widmyer by and large agreed with the presentation, with Widmyer singling out an issue he says will be front and center on Coeur d’Alene’s radar in the near future: Managing the health of the lake.

“This is such a critical issue that’s going to come up over just the next few years,” he said. “If one thing that came out of this … lake management is critical, so I’m glad this was brought up to the front.”

The language in the 2007 plan focused its lake health specifically on the shoreline, while the new focus — if eventually passed — would also include stormwater management and interagency cooperation with other jurisdictions, among other sub-topics.

Planners took their data from a kick-off event with more than 80 participants, more than 100 participants at planning-driven game nights, four public surveys with 1,400 respondents, and participation from community advisory meetings.

The 5-1 Council vote means planners have been given a vote of confidence to continue down this path, but the plan is still being crafted and won’t be voted on until at least the spring, after which the plan will serve as a macro-level guide, and not a microscopic one.

“I don’t think we can say, ‘We have to have all the finite details [right now],’” Councilwoman Christie Wood said. “We’re going to develop those details over time, so I’m fine with the direction we’re going.”

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Widmyer

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Wood