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Kootenai County to float $50M open spaces bond

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | July 26, 2023 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Kootenai County voters will decide in November whether to approve a $50 million bond meant to secure public open space on the Rathdrum Prairie and other parts of the county.

The county announced Tuesday that an “Open Space and Park Development Bond” will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot. The bond needs approval from two-thirds of voters in order to pass.

“This gives the community an option to have a direct say in their direction of growth in this county,” Commissioner Bruce Mattare said Tuesday.

If the bond is approved, funds would be used to acquire open space properties in Kootenai County and pay for recreational amenities. Properties purchased with bond funds would be available for public use and would not be sold or converted for other purposes. Public-use spaces might include new trail systems, play areas, parks, spaces for farmers markets and more.

Commissioners said, in a news release, that acquiring and preserving open spaces, particularly over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, would help protect local drinking water and prevent overloading of area sewer treatment plants.

Mattare said he’s heard from many Kootenai County residents who are concerned about density and the impact of continued growth on the county’s open spaces.

“The very draw that attracts people here, the open spaces, is quickly disappearing,” he said. “This is an opportunity to help preserve the qualities that attracted people to the area.”

Based on current conditions, taxpayers would pay $8 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value, according to the county. It is estimated the owner of a home with a market value of $500,000 ($375,000 taxable value after applying the homeowner’s exemption) could expect to see a tax increase of $30 per year.

Individual taxpayer costs are expected to decline over the next 20 years, according to the county, given continued growth in Kootenai County’s tax base and economy.

Commissioners approved the bond election ordinance July 11.

The idea stems from December 2021, when a public land acquisition program was proposed by former Planning and Zoning Commissioner Wes Hanson and Community Development Director David Callahan.

County commissioners voted unanimously in August 2022 to put the $50 million bond question on the November 2023 ballot.

At that time, Parks and Waterways Director Nick Snyder estimated that a $50 million bond would allow for the purchase and development of about 333 acres.

Mattare acknowledged Tuesday that it’s not yet known exactly how much land the county would be able to purchase with the bond funds.

“We hope we can find people who want to see the open spaces preserved,” Mattare said. “Obviously we would be very receptive to people who wanted to work out arrangements with the county where we could buy the land and work with those people.”

The county has created a website with more information about the proposed bond: www.kcbondinfo.com.