Post Falls needs to decide how it wants to look and act before it becomes a sprawling suburb like Spokane Valley, say city planners pushing for a new way to manage the town’s growing population.
The Post Falls City Council will decide Tuesday whether to adopt the action plan that focuses on creating neighborhoods that have commercial centers and walking trails and encourage people to live in the area where they work.
The idea is to get away from the typical subdivision with cul-de-sacs and houses on large lots that are far away from any shopping or services.
“Nobody knows each other, and there’s no sense of community or neighborhood,” Community Development Director Gary Young said. “The whole push is to get that community. People live in a higher density, but in a way … where they can walk or go to the park or get a cup of coffee.”
Young said the whole process will begin with deciding how Post Falls wants to look.
If the council adopts the action plan, the next step is hiring a consultant to survey Post Falls residents to determine what they want to see in all areas of town – from the central core to the transition areas on the edge of the prairie.
Carol Sebastian of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance said the city is making a progressive move to combat sprawl with the plan that encourages denser development of mixed use neighborhoods.
“I think they have actually realized they have a big problem,” Sebastian said.
Post Falls currently has about 22,000 residents, a number that is expected to more than double in 15 years. Young said the city must figure out how to accommodate all these people without taking over the prairie.
The plan is based on SmartCode, an urban designing tool that offers guidelines for how a neighborhood should look instead of focusing only on the type of development that is allowed in a certain area.
Once the visioning task is complete, the city will work on creating design standards that could cover everything from building heights and bulk to the type of building materials that are encouraged in various areas.
Young said this is especially important as Post Falls works to establish a downtown center.
There currently aren’t any subdivisions in Post Falls that fully embrace the SmartCode concept, but there are a few new developments that use some of the ideas – such as higher population density, homes with front porches instead of garages and wide sidewalks.
Young said the Post Falls Landing development on the former Louisiana-Pacific mill site is one example of a good mixed-use project with townhouses and condos in addition to retail and office space; a marina; a town square; and a hotel and conference center.
Coeur d’Alene hasn’t adopted the SmartCode rules but has embraced some of the concepts by encouraging infill in the downtown core, especially buildings where retail stores are on the street level while the top floors offer townhouses and condos.
A current proposal to limit building heights and bulk to preserve views of Lake Coeur d’Alene is another aspect, said Planner Dave Yadon.
“It’s all part of making it a distinctive, attractive place,” Yadon said.