Two interesting and somewhat interrelated items in today’s Coeur d’Alene Press: first, that the City of Post Falls is reviewing their procedures for annexations into the City; second, that the City of Coeur d’Alene is reluctant to provide water service outside its municipal boundary in Huetter. The articles signal that both municipalities remain acutely concerned about expanding expensive city services at the periphery of their city limits.
The City of Post Falls is looking to revise annexation procedures so that developers aren’t given preliminary approvals that lead to an expectation of a final approval. Post Falls has adopted a flexible “Smart Code” zoning ordinance which modernizes its approach to development within the city limits, but requires that detailed planning work be done prior to final approval. However, the annexation process requires a preliminary approval from the City Council before developers do the more detailed project planning. Preliminary approval for an annexation does not necessarily mean final approval for a development, but the current process allows for momentum to build, investments to be made, and expectations to develop. As city administrator Erik Keck says in the article, the city’s priorities on growth can get lost in the current process: “We want to talk about how to make it a better process, so the council doesn’t feel it has a gun to its head that says, ‘You have to accept this,’” Keck said.
Meanwhile, the City of Coeur d’Alene’s Public Works committee declined a request by the tiny City of Huetter to consider extending water service. Huetter’s water service is below state DEQ standards and needs to be upgraded. As Jim Markely, head of Coeur d’Alene’s water department said, the system can handle the additional customers, but “The biggest point to make is that’s one of our growth tools, not extending outside city lines.” The City’s growth, in other words, should be determined by the City, not outside pressures.
All of this is occurring just as Kootenai County has released “Draft 4” of the Comprehensive Plan, which will be subject to yet another public hearing October 26th. As seen from today’s articles, the municipalities would clearly prefer less uncontrollable pressure on their borders so that they can expand in a more orderly, affordable and planned way. As we’ve been saying all along, this can be accomplished by a strong County comp plan, which keeps rural areas rural. The County Commissioners will have another (final?) chance to fix what they broke. We hope they restore clear numeric density ranges to the comp plan — to protect rural areas and direct development into the city limits, rather than allowing development to sprawl outward.