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Coeur d’Alene officials weigh possible sale of land next to Tubbs Hill

UPDATED: Wed., March 15, 2017, 11:05 p.m.

Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal agency, ignite cda, wants to hear what the community thinks about its proposal to sell a small piece of residential land on the north side of Tubbs Hill.

The agency’s board decided Wednesday to gather feedback after members of the Tubbs Hill Foundation raised concerns about how the sale could impact the popular park between downtown and Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“Just go out and stand in front of City Hall and look up at that ground now and then imagine – well, worst-case scenario – high rises, and Tubbs Hill flat disappears,” said Chuck Hosack, a board member of the nonprofit group dedicated to the preservation of the tree-covered park.

Hosack emphasized the importance Tubbs Hill has on the city, calling it “the crown jewel of downtown Coeur d’Alene” and a hidden economic driver for real estate values.

Former state legislator George Sayler, president of the foundation, urged the urban renewal board to reconsider selling the land and gather more community input.

The sale of the lot just south of City Hall would help fund some of ignite cda’s downtown-area projects, said Tony Berns, executive director of the agency.

The land is zoned for residential use, but it’s in an infill overlay district that would allow for higher density construction, if the city approved.

The urban renewal district demolished two older houses on the property in January. A home on the northeastern corner is owned by a Spokane family.

One corner of the lot proposed to be sold is owned by the city, and ignite cda has asked the city to gift that portion of land to the agency. An appraiser determined that the ignite cda land and the city land together are worth $1.39 million. The ignite cda land alone is worth $960,000.

The district bought the property years ago, thinking it might somehow fit into the redevelopment of McEuen Park. But it wasn’t used for that purpose, and now it’s cut off from McEuen by a new city parking lot south of City Hall.

Jessica Bryant, a Tubbs Hill Foundation board member, recommended using the ignite cda land for a trail to better link McEuen Park to the Tubbs Hill trail system.

“Uniting Tubbs Hill and McEuen Park simply makes sense,” Bryant said.

The urban renewal agency considers the Tubbs Hill lot nonessential or surplus property, and it’s looking to sell it to help fund a proposed $6 million downtown parking garage, help the city with the Four Corners redevelopment between downtown and Riverstone, and do other projects in its lake district.

“We have some very spendy district projects that we need to fund over the next five years before the district expires in 2021,” Berns said earlier Wednesday.

The agency has struck a deal with Washington Trust Bank to borrow $10 million to help fund its downtown-area projects, and part of that loan is contingent on selling surplus property, he said.

The ignite cda board on Wednesday agreed to send the proposed property sale back to its finance committee, which will look at alternate ways of funding projects and selling surplus property.

Mayor Steve Widmyer, who sits on the ignite cda board, said he would work with the Tubbs Hill Foundation to do community outreach and “come up with more of a plan.”

“I’ve always thought that anything that was done here had to have a lot of special care just because of where it is,” Widmyer said.

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