Despite a vote to the contrary, Mayor Al Hassell doesn’t oppose expanding the city across the Spokane River.
In fact, in his vision, it may be only a matter of time.
The mayor cast the deciding vote Tuesday turning down a proposed 40-acre, 292-pad recreational vehicle park on Blackwell Island south of U.S. Highway 95. Approval would have meant annexing land across the river - a first.
This proposal simply left too many unanswered questions, he said. Developers had not convinced him, for example, that an open sewer drain would be safe in the event of flooding.
But while residents and some officials oppose the expansion on principle, Hassell said Coeur d’Alene’s boundaries eventually will cross the water.
“One of the things we have to consider is whether the timing is right,” he said before Tuesday’s vote.
He joined council members Ron Edinger, Dan English and Dixie Reid in voting against the RV park.
About 50 neighbors who spoke or wrote letters in opposition applauded his vote. They had argued the project would mark the start of a southwesterly charge across the river that would lead to destruction of their rural lifestyle.
Some council members, such as English, agreed. He said the city is big enough.
But others wanted the project to go forward after developers have worked out the kinks. Councilman Mike McDowell voted for the project but wanted fewer RV sites, more environmental safeguards and a stricter limit on consecutive overnight stays.
Hassell said he might have agreed but the problems were too severe to fix in one night. “If this had looked like it’d be good for the community as a whole, then I might have changed my mind,” he said Wednesday.
Residents said they hope the council learned from Tuesday’s often-hostile crowd. This sort of annexation requires extreme caution, they said.
“The city really did the only prudent thing,” resident Gerry Gospodnetich said of Tuesday’s vote.
Residents had accused city leaders of making back-room deals to expand eventually to Cougar Gulch - three miles south of existing city limits. Officials countered that staff members merely had shared information with developers, which is part of their job.
Still, the perception remains that city leaders plan to expand southward whether residents are willing or not. “I would hope the city would now take a look at how much is being done in an open matter with the public,” Gospodnetich said.