Thursday, July 25, 2024

EDITORIAL: With Coeur Terre, city council shines

| March 26, 2023 1:00 AM

A 4-2 vote Tuesday night by the Coeur d’Alene City Council will essentially link the Lake City and Post Falls forever.

Over the next several decades, the Coeur Terre development, which includes parks, trails, several thousand new homes and room for new schools, will rise from vanishing open prairie spaces now serving as soft barriers between the county’s two largest cities.

The massive project includes a 5% sliver of homes being described as affordable, leaving some to question if that means the other 95% isn’t.

Regardless, the point today is not to argue the pros and cons of Coeur Terre. That issue has been talked half to death and will almost certainly be debated for generations to come.

The point here is to celebrate the process that led to the 4-2 vote, a process that should serve as an example to less experienced and less responsible governing bodies.

Just over two years ago, an excellent My Turn by Roger Smith framed the issue this way:

“The recent proposal for the massive Coeur Terre project is a moment of truth for our elected leaders — both at the city and county levels. Will officials simply allow the sprawl of 4,500 new homes that will swell the local population by 11,000? Or will they work jointly to protect the quality of life for residents by only allowing development in smaller increments — to allow time to assess impacts on our traffic, sewers, schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure?”

Neighbors to the development are virtually united in believing Coeur Terre’s traffic impact will be devastating. But with the project phased in over many years and a smaller overall footprint than some anticipated, the Coeur d’Alene City Council has answered Mr. Smith’s second question with a “yes.”

Mayor Jim Hammond, who's worked on annexation and development issues since 1979, told The Press that "the process for Coeur Terre received the greatest amount of consideration, discussion and debate by all involved."

The former Post Falls mayor said the result was "considerable compromise to best protect current neighborhoods and ensure additional housing for all levels of wage earners."

The process featured an open door for public comment and the airing of serious worries.

"Most of the adjoining neighbors expressed their concerns with civil and respectful voices, which was very much valued by the council," Hammond said.

And finally, the process highlighted the value of elected officials debating, sometimes vehemently, to expose what they believed to be the best paths forward.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s what elected officials are supposed to do. While only time will sort out the winners and the losers — and with growth you cannot have one without the other — the city’s planning commission and the Coeur d’Alene City Council have served the public well.