LEWISTON – Officials in this North Idaho city are considering changes in how the city approves development requests following disputes between entrepreneurs and city planners.
“It’s a far too contentious development environment in this community, and that could be related to real issues or it could be related to culture,” John Krauss, Lewiston’s city manager, told the Lewiston Tribune.
He said city staffers are examining a 28-day period required for plan reviews and the possibility of hiring more employees.
“The goal with the city is to facilitate rather than regulate development,” Krauss says. “We have laws and codes, but we need to be sensitive to how we can promote development.”
Still, he said, the problem wasn’t all with the city.
“There is a segment of the development community that is unaccepting of codes,” Krauss said.
Some businesses said the city is less helpful than it could be.
Gary Rencehausen wanted to put a winery into part of a 20,000-square-foot building he owns on Main Street. He said it took three meetings before he learned he would have to put in a protective wall separating the winery from other businesses in the building that would prevent a fire from spreading for at least three hours.
“They’re willing to tell me how I can’t do it three times, but they’re not willing to tell me how I can do it once,” he said.
In another dispute, a company wanted to distribute purified water from a building that was once used to repair cars. But the city said that would require a change in the zoning and comprehensive plan, which could take months.
“This was for a much less intensive use than what was there,” said developer Marshall Clark, of Spokane.
But city officials said they were simply following city code, and the comprehensive plan can only be altered every six months.
“We have to follow the code,” said city planner Steven M. Watson. “The city neighbors have a right to know what’s going on up there.”