Win for River's Edge
River's Edge Apartments developer Lanzce Douglass makes a presentation during Tuesday's Planning Commission meeting in the Library Community Room
Staff Writer | December 14, 2022 1:09 AM
COEUR d’ALENE — River’s Edge Apartments came before the Coeur d’Alene Planning Commission on Tuesday with three requests and came away with a clean sweep.
Key points for the commission were that the North Idaho Centennial Trail would run along the Spokane River in the development and the public could access it, and it would provide more housing.
“This puts the trail on the water, which is where it should be,” said developer Lanzce Douglass following the unanimous 6-0 decision. “It’s a great asset to the community and a legacy project that people will enjoy for generations.”
The property is west of Atlas Waterfront Park and south of Seltice Way along the Spokane River.
The commission agreed to change the zoning on about 7.5 acres from R-12 to R-17, and to down zone about 13 acres from C-17 commercial to R-17 residential.
It approved a special-use permit for a density increase to R-34 that will allow for a maximum overall density of 26.4 units per acre.
It also agreed to a modification of the Planned Unit Development already approved to remove a 431 unit mini-storage facility and to remove 28 single-family residential lots along the river and replace them with 296 multi-family units, public open space, and a 16-foot wide trail adjacent to the river that allows public access to the river.
“This is public, open space where you’re going to feel welcome,” said commissioner Jon Ingalls. “I support this project.”
Commissioner Lynn Fleming agreed.
“I really love that we finally got the trail back on the water,” she said.
River’s Edge has a history in Coeur d'Alene.
It was first heard by the Planning Commission in December 2018. The original proposal was for an 850-unit apartment facility with a public trail along the river. The commission recommended approval of the request for a zone change, but in March 2019 it was denied by the City Council.
The second proposal was heard in July 2019. The PUD and subdivision consisted of a 250-unit apartment facility, a mini-storage facility and a private gated residential community along the river. The commission approved it.
The third proposal request was heard in August of 2020. This allowed Douglass to incorporate the city’s 3.6-acre property that bisected the applicant’s property into the overall project.
The proposal allowed for a 384-unit apartment facility, 431 mini-storage units, and 28 single-family residential lots along the river. The commission said OK.
Under that development plan, there was no public access to the river and the trail was directed away from the river, as well.
The 384-unit apartment project is under construction. The 296 additional apartments will bring the project to 680 units, which is about what Ingalls said it should be four years ago when it first came to the commission.
Douglass said trees planned along the trail will provide a buffer from the apartment buildings, which will have an 80-foot setback, so they will not be easily visible from the river.
The additional apartments would create more housing supply and could drive down housing costs, commission members said.
Douglass said 5% of the units will be dedicated to workforce housing.
Ingalls said he saw River's Edge as coming full circle, with improvements.
“The waterfront amenities as presented tonight are something we should feel proud of here,” he said.
Commissioner Peter Luttropp liked the way the development has evolved.
"It certainly is a great improvement from what we’ve had in the past,” he said.
Not everyone agreed.
Resident Suzanne Knutson was there four years ago when a large crowd came out in opposition to River’s Edge.
“I feel like this is a bait-and-switch and I don’t feel like it’s in line with the comprehensive plan,” she said.
Knutson expressed concerns that the area is being overdeveloped.
“This pillage has got to stop,” she said.
Her husband, Robert Knutson said the traffic impacts and the public’s access to the trail through private property needs harder looks.
"We’re all gas and no brakes when it comes to high-density development,” he said.
Former city Attorney Mike Gridley, representing Douglass, said the development will provide a rare opportunity for public river access that otherwise could be lost.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” he said.
The project must still go before the City Council for consideration.