The public would gain more access to Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River if Coeur d’Alene agrees to include part of Blackwell Island in its city limits, Hagadone Corp. officials told the city planners Tuesday night.
The company is asking the city to annex about 78 acres of the manmade island south of U.S. Highway 95 as part of its plan to expand and upgrade the existing marina. The proposal also includes asking the city to approve a limited design planned unit development for 44 acres on the east side of the property for a business park that would include condos, shops and offices. The limited design PUD is a planning tool that lets the city know where Hagadone would build the “village-style” business park without knowing the architectural specifics.
Spokesman John Barlow said the buildings would be up to 110 feet tall, which is about 8 stories.
In trade, the public would get a boardwalk and bike trail that would follow the east shoreline and then make a loop past the marina and to the parking lot. The public also could use the parking lot. Currently, the public has no access to the island shoreline.
“It’s very similar to what you see in Boise with the public trail along the river,” Hagadone spokesman John Barlow told the Coeur d’Alene Planning Commission.
The commission hadn’t made a decision by 9 p.m. but some members said they had concerns about filling the east side of the property with sediment dredged from the marina channel that contains heavy metals. The company wants to use the dredged soils to build up the property so it is no longer in the 100-year flood zone.
The city council will have the final say on the annexation and that wouldn’t be complete until an agreement outlining fees and other conditions, such as future sewer plans, are negotiated with Hagadone.
The company simultaneously is asking the Idaho Department of Lands and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to dredge the Blackwell Island channel to allow for larger boats. The lands department had a public hearing last week and is expected to make a decision within 30 days.
Commissioner Heather Bowlby said she would prefer the city postpone making a decision until the state and federal agencies decide whether to issue the dredging permit.
“This island is so sensitive,” she said. “It has so many issues. I feel I can’t move this fast.”
The city used to use Blackwell Island as a landfill.
Barlow said the dredging will actually improve the environment by transporting the contaminated soils to higher ground and then capping them with clean sand and gravel in addition to grass, buildings or parking lots.
Commissioner Mary Souza asked Barlow if Hagadone Corp. was interested in working with the city to link the proposed bike trail to other nearby paths such as the Centennial Trail. Souza said some people have lobbied to build a pedestrian bridge between Blackwell Island and the Fort Grounds area near North Idaho College, where Highway 95 used to cross the river.
Barlow said the company would welcome such a foot bridge but he stopped short of agreeing to cover some of the costs. Instead, he said, the company is proactive by creating a place people want to visit.
Wes Hanson of Coeur d’Alene brought his watercolors and paint brush to illustrate his opposition to the project’s potential of releasing toxic contaminants into the river and drinking-water aquifer.
Cadmium, a toxic metal that’s in the lake sediments, is used in red watercolor pigment. A glass of drinking water instantly turned red as Hanson dipped his paint brush with red paint on the bristles in the glass.
“Increasing public health is far more important than increasing the tax base,” Hanson said, holding up the glass and offering the commissioners a drink.
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