Monday, April 22, 2024

OPINION: Let's preserve our downtown

by DAN GOOKIN/Guest Opinion
| January 31, 2024 1:00 AM

The new Marriot coming downtown is allowed by right (Downtown Hotel Gets OK, Coeur d'Alene Press Jan. 26). I know that many citizens are upset. They see a deterioration in the charm and character of downtown. They see a city that’s beginning to look like every other city in the country. And they’re disappointed in the city for not doing anything.

The Design Review Committee is not the place to express these concerns. Last year, a similar development went through the City’s Design Review Committee. The decision was appealed by a neighbor who was unhappy with the fact the development required fewer parking spaces than would seem necessary. This concern is legitimate, but appealing the Design Review Committee’s decision isn’t the proper way to address this concern.

The problem is parking. In my opinion, the city’s Downtown Overlay Zone has inadequate parking requirements. For example, the new Thomas George building has three floors of commercial space with zero parking for employees or guests. I’m appalled at the city for agreeing to such terms.

At the Design Review appeal hearing last year, I made a motion (the third time I’ve done so) to direct staff to look at downtown parking and building height restrictions. My goal is to preserve the character and charm of our downtown. Unlike the other three times, this most recent attempt garnered a second to my motion. Council then voted unanimously to direct staff to return to us for a discussion on downtown parking and height restrictions.

That was nearly a year ago.

A recent letter to the editor also echoed these sentiments. I’ve been contacted by others, so I know I’m not alone.

When I asked staff two months ago about the process of having the discussion they were ordered to provide, they seemed surprised. It was as if they had forgotten or it wasn’t important, despite Council’s unanimous vote.

If you want to join me and preserve the historic nature, charm and beauty of our downtown, and to require developers to provide adequate, sensible parking, please email the mayor and City Council members. Attend a City Council meeting to make public comments in support of revising our downtown parking requirement and to address building heights. I would like to get the ball rolling. Please let your voices be heard.

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Dan Gookin serves on the Coeur d’Alene City Council.