Saturday, June 15, 2024

1,400-unit development gets OK

Staff Writer | May 13, 2021 1:00 AM

The Post Falls Planning and Zoning Commission recommended a potential 1,400-unit development for council approval Tuesday night, despite citizen pleas that the city shouldn’t “permanently alter Post Falls” to serve the influx of residents moving to the area. 

Moving forward on a 5-1 vote, Vicky Jo Carey dissenting, the North Place proposal would rezone about 240 acres from Single-Family Residential to Residential Mixed.

The property, which rests south of Prairie Avenue, east of Idaho Avenue, and west of the Fieldstone subdivision, would be used for various mixed-use neighborhoods with residential and retail developments. 

Under the Residential-Mixed zone, the applicant was allowed upward of 1,200 dwellings. However, per Commissioner Nancy Hampe’s request and board support, the applicant — Greenstone-Kootenai II, LLC — is recommended to cap units at 1,400. Based on application projections, the construction would be completed in multiple phases over 10 to 15 years. 

A crowd of unhappy residents filled the seats of Post Falls City Hall Tuesday night, many of whom had submitted comments or stood to speak against the development. As the night went on, a theme emerged that the city shouldn’t change for the new wave of interested homebuyers. 

Joshua Hensley, his wife, Julie, and their two children live directly south of other Greenstone developments. In his opinion, the subdivision consists of “the smallest lots with the smallest houses” that the applicant could build. 

“We’re building California homes for Californians, and we’re going to create traffic to make them feel welcome,” Hensley said. “We shouldn’t permanently alter Post Falls for the temporary thing that we’re in right now.” 

Recently moving to Post Falls, Samantha Steigleder spoke from a neutral position — one that was directed at city staff for using language that sounded more like support of new development. 

“My understanding was that this was a presentation, purely to inform you fine people but also the residents of Post Falls whether or not these proposals meet city standards,” Steigleder said. “But what I heard was a lot of advocacy for additional housing, development, and multifamily housing in the city of Post Falls.”

Chris Larson, deputy fire marshal for Northern Lakes Fire District, also spoke against the development due to a concern of public safety. Growth at any rate affects first responders, Larson pointed out, and services are already struggling to handle the volume.

“Right now, with the growth that we’re seeing, as a first responder and a paramedic, I have seen these delays due to high-density growth,” Larson said. “As the population increases, so does our call volume. So far in the last decade, our volume has increased by 55%. Yet, as a fire district, they can only grow their budget by 3%.” 

While the commissioners thanked citizens for their comments, members of the board pointed out that they do not have the final say and encouraged residents to voice their concerns to the City Council, which ultimately will decide its fate. 

“We feel for you guys. We’re residents here. We live here; some of us our whole lives, others transplants like everyone else,” Commissioner Kevin Ward said. 

Vice chairman of the commission, Ray Kimball, is a lifelong resident of Post Falls. He recalled moving irrigation pipes out of prairie fields — fields where his house now sits.

Kimball pointed out that Kevin Schneidmiller, the presenter for North Place development, and his family have owned and farmed the 240 acres for decades. 

“In the '90s, they stopped being able to farm it with grass seed because we couldn’t burn anymore. Farmers lost their profit stream,” Kimball said. 

Touching on the “we don’t have to build” comment, Kimball too said that in reality, the city does need more homes — not for the new residents but the old ones. 

“It’s the people who grew up here, or maybe are graduating from Post Falls High School this year (and) in five years want to come back and build a house … They want to live here, but they’ve been priced out of the market,” Kimball said. “That’s the real problem because if the people who grew up here can’t afford it, then what are we doing?” 

The Planning and Zoning Commission also unanimously approved:

• Tullamore 9th Subdivision to turn 33.43 acres into 13 commercial lots and one open space tract. The development is part of the ongoing Tullamore project south of Killdeer Avenue, west of Highway 41, and north of Hope Avenue. According to the applicant, Copper Basin Construction Inc., one lot is slated to be a new school — Elevate Academy. 

• Brennan annexation of approximately 5 acres into the city of Post Falls from Kootenai County as Single-Family Residential (R-1) zoning. The property is north of Bluegrass Lane, east of Hope Avenue between Greensferry Road and Cecil Road.