Post Falls City Council had multiple public hearings during Wednesday’s meeting and ultimately approved a zone change in the commercial area off Seltice Ave. and Spokane Street, and an annexation and zone change in the undeveloped area off Prairie Ave near Hwy 53.
SmartCode Zone Change on Seltice Ave.
The Housing Company from Boise is working with St. Vincent de Paul to rezone a block to construct a large mixed-use retail/low-income housing space at Spokane St. and Seltice Ave. Currently the block is a combination of Medium Density Residential (R-2) and Community Commercial Service (CCS) zoning, but The Housing Company wants to rezone to the SmartCode 5 (SC5) zoning district. Under the current zone, their proposed development is too large and does not come with enough parking. Under the new SmartCode zone, the applicant won’t need to have as many parking spaces and as such can comply with easements and setbacks.
From the applicant’s project description:
The Housing Company is proposing a 32 unit apartment complex at 210 W Seltice Way, Post Falls, ID 83854. The current owner and applicant is The Society Of St. Vincent De Paul In The City of Coeur d'Alene, Inc. This property has 2 zones: R-2 and CCC. We are requesting a SC5 zoning.
We would demolish the old buildings, build new one and modernize this parcel. This project would be funded with LIHTC* funds. We would have 22-1 bedrooms, 2-2 bedrooms and 8-3 bedrooms.
LIHTC funds stands for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, or HUD, funds.
The project, known as the John Bruning Commons, will have a St. Vincent de Paul retail space on the ground floor with 32 units above. The Housing Company did traffic impact studies and proclaims that there will be a daily average of 17 more cars than are currently in that area.
St. Vincent owns the apartment currently occupied in that space and will be working with the current tenants to find them housing elsewhere, either temporarily or permanently, the are unsure of their present course of action.
Once the John Bruning Commons is complete they will be accepting applications for low-income residents; rent will be determined by a formula that includes the average area income and the tenant’s income. The Housing Company stated that they do not get funding to make up the difference between what the tenant pays and what the market value is for that area.
The Housing Company said that they have little turnover once a resident moves in but could not answer how they determine if the resident continues to be low-income after initial move in, or if they determine it at all. Also no answers when asked if they are incentivizing people to stay low-income to stay in that building instead of working to get out of that situation.
After public comments, mostly by Post Falls Chamber of Commerce board members, the city council voted to approve the rezoning in a 6-0 vote.
What is SmartCode zoning?
According to the Post Falls Comprehensive Plan, the City has been active in improving Post Falls' built environment through the creation of design guidelines and building codes. Post Falls adopted a form based SmartCode2 in 2009, addressing the community's growing hopes that a new approach to zoning would stimulate an increasing sense of civic identity and accelerate reinvestment in downtown. While the community valued greater attention to design in some parts of Post Falls, the structure of the SmartCode and zoning ordinance proved cumbersome. In response, the City has begun work to develop a "hybrid" style code combining the best attributes of traditional and form-based codes.
This updated comprehensive plan includes policies that attempt to resolve this confusion, suggesting that:
Development intensities and land uses be permitted by right within certain zones;
All permitting processes be streamlined as much as possible;
Variety in housing types and land uses is desirable;
Design control be applied to those corridors and districts where community image and a "sense of place" are valued most
The City intends to update its zoning ordinance concurrently with this plan revision, eliminating the SmartCode and integrating those design and use-oriented provisions that make sense within a single, modified zoning ordinance. The new zoning ordinance is expected to create "block frontage" standards to address building placement and architectural treatments where a higher-quality experience is sought, in exchange for higher development intensities. The new ordinance is also expected to allow a wider variety of land uses permitted by right.
Annexation and Zone Change on Prairie Ave.
The area near Highway 53 is the latest area to be annexed into Post Falls and developed for future use. This request is no different; Ranvir Nagra of Veradale has requested a 2.64-acre piece of property be annexed into the city limits and rezoned from Agricultural to CCS (Community Commercial Services).
Mr. Nagra, through his representative Connie Kruger (yes, same Connie Kruger who represented the Coeur Terre project), pointed out that the Future Land Use map for this area shows that this will become a “commercial activity node” near a potential new high school, similar to the area directly adjacent to Lake City High School. According to Ms. Kruger, Mr. Nagra “usually provides fuel service stations, convenience stores, and commercial strip models.” Expect a gas station or small strip mall in this location in the next few years.
The city council approved both the annexation and zone change in a 6-0 vote.