Friday, December 01, 2023

Rezoning idea floated for NIC

Staff Writer | March 18, 2023 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — A new idea to protect North Idaho College’s campus from outside development, should it lose accreditation, has emerged.

Public records show that some officials with the city of Coeur d’Alene have discussed the idea of working with NIC trustees to rezone the campus, forming a “university district.”

“It would be a cooperative effort with the college and the city,” said Christie Wood, a Coeur d’Alene City Council member and former NIC trustee.

She stressed that it would not be a "taking," just a zoning change, and approached only if the college was interested.

The city of Moscow has a similar concept already in place. The University of Idaho’s campus is designed as a University Zoning District.

The University Zoning District’s purpose is to “create a district that will protect and maintain the university environment,” according to Moscow’s zoning code, as well as to provide for the location and grouping of compatible uses found on or near the U of I campus.

In recent months, rumors have swirled that certain NIC trustees are working to intentionally tank the college and sell the valuable land on which it sits.

Wood condemned those rumors as false but acknowledged that many in the community are worried about what might happen to the campus if NIC fails. She believes rezoning the area would help stamp out the speculation.

“That would stop the rumors that the trustees are trying to drive the college into the ground and sell off the land to developers,” Wood said. “It would put the community at ease. We would know that the land would always be protected.”

Much of NIC’s main campus sits on a tract of land donated to Kootenai County by the Winton Lumber Company for the purpose of developing a public park, public hospital or public educational institution.

In August 1941, the county conveyed the land to the North Idaho Junior College District. The property is deed restricted and cannot be used for commercial purposes. It can only be used for public education or a hospital.

But the campus has expanded since the 1940s, particularly in the last few decades. The restrictions don’t apply to the Educational Corridor along the river, for example, nor to the properties along Military Drive that the college has purchased.

In order to rezone the campus, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission would have to conduct a public hearing and consult the comprehensive plan before making a recommendation to the city council.

Both the Coeur d’Alene City Council and the NIC board of trustees would have to agree to the change.

The idea has not yet been formally proposed and won’t be explored further, Wood said, unless the NIC board expresses interest.

Wood said she hopes the trustees will consider the idea, which she believes will protect the land from any actions by any future board.

“Elected officials may not always like each other, but they should work together to support and protect their community,” she said.



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