Lost in the 50s
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Schweitzer Outback Boal
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
News from the desk of the Mayor:
Lunch With The Mayor: Keep Sandpoint Affordable
This article is the last installment of a four-part series through October describing my goals and priorities as mayor of Sandpoint. Those are: 1) Engage the public to address community concerns 2) Improve the local economy. 3) Sustain quality of life for Sandpoint residents 4) Keep Sandpoint affordable.
Priority #4: Keep Sandpoint Affordable
Sandpoint is in the process of significant transformation. This town was founded on resource extraction as the primary economic driver. This fact remained for generations until the 1980’s when tourism began to have an increasing role in the local economy. By the early 2000’s Sandpoint embraced the label “tourist town.” While tourism is great for local business, particularly those in the service related industries, being “too desirable” impacts affordability. This is particularly true for housing prices. We have seen this story played out over nearly every successful mountain town in the west over the last several decades: Vale, Sun Valley, Jackson, Tahoe, etc. Whether renting or owning, housing is the single greatest expense for most families, and everybody pays. When housing prices become inflated, other costs of living follow. A city’s land use policy, namely zoning, has more influence on housing affordability than any other municipal function. By keeping housing costs affordable, we will avoid the fate that has befallen nearly every other successful resort community.
The City can do this by encouraging increased density. Increased density provides more housing to support job growth, it creates more housing choices which translates to more affordability for all income levels, owners and renters, and it reduces the city’s cost to provide services. It requires less miles of streets and utilities, snow removal, police, fire and other city services to service the same number of units. Density also reduces transportation costs for residents and creates a more active streetscape, a vibrant community and a healthy economy.
Upon completion of our zoning codes in 2012, our single family neighborhoods allow for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) by right. The minimum lot size was reduced by 50%. The multi-family zone allows for much greater density and commercial zones provide development bonuses for residential development above or behind commercial uses. Other changes, like the cottage housing ordinance, allowed for more creative solutions to encourage density and provide for more housing options with limited land resources.
Today, Sandpoint is trying to shake the tourist town label in favor of one that is more inclusive, demonstrates its depth, recognizes its increasingly diversified economy and knack for innovation. Can Sandpoint achieve this while preserving its traditional attributes—great access to resources, historical character and affordability? This is the great challenge and it can best be addressed through responsive land use policy.
Other areas where the City can impact cost of living include utilities, fees, and efficiencies in service delivery. On the campaign trail I often heard residents concerned that utility costs are too high. It is true that Sandpoint’s water and sewer rates are higher than typical for many cities. There are good reasons for this. We have not one but two groundwater sources, Sand Creek Plant and the Lake Plant. Surface water requires a higher level of treatment than an underground aquifer or well. Redundant infrastructure comes with a cost. Rate-payers are currently paying off two bonds, one for the lake plant and one for the wastewater plant. Fortunately, the City refinanced the sewer bond last year saving rate-payers a million dollars while reducing our payoff period by 5 years. The City also reduced water and sewer hook-up fees by half in 2016. This has the dual effect of saving money and encouraging more development where the savings are passed on to renters and buyers.
We all want affordability. Ensuring affordability means that we preserve access for everyone to essential resources like housing, services, community assets and goods. Affordability enables prosperity.Tomorrow is the first “Lunch With The Mayor” informal meeting to be held on the last Thursday of the month. It will be held from 12-1pm at the Cedar Street Bistro in the Cedar Street Bridge. I welcome all to join me to discuss the local economy, quality of life, affordability and other issues of local concern.
Shelby Rognstad was born and raised in Lewiston, Idaho. A fourth generation Idahoan, Shelby moved to Sandpoint in 1999. Shelby first came here to practice permaculture after graduating with a liberal arts degree from the University of Idaho in 1998. In 2006, he opened Common Knowledge Bookstore and Café. In addition to selling new and used books, it served breakfast and lunch using locally sourced and organic foods. In 2013, Shelby co-founded The Hive, an entertainment venue in downtown Sandpoint. Since 2012, Shelby has worked in real estate holding and private lending in North Idaho and Eastern Washington.
Shelby served on the steering committee and Board of Directors for Sandpoint Transition Initiative (2007-2008) and has supported other local nonprofits, including Sandpoint Community Radio, the Public Forum on Sustainability, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper and the Eureka Institute. He practices yoga and Vipassanā Meditation and has volunteered at Vipassanā Meditation Centers in Washington, British Columbia and Puerto Rico. He is active year round in sports and outdoor activities.
Shelby’s public service began in 2007 when he was appointed to the Sandpoint Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. In 2009, he was appointed to the Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commission. He served as Vice Chair until he was appointed to the City Council by Mayor Ogilvie on January 18, 2012. Shelby was elected City Council President in February of 2014. In November of 2015, he was elected Mayor and was sworn in on January 6, 2016.
Education and Workforce Training:
While in office, Mayor Rognstad intends to work with employers, educators and community leaders to develop workforce training and higher education opportunities in Sandpoint. The Mayor recognizes the importance and value of North Idaho College and the PTECH (Pathways to Technology in Early College High School) program in Sandpoint. Sandpoint is fortunate to have excellent options in K-12 education. However, more needs to be done to foster greater opportunities for youth and to develop an educated, skilled workforce in Sandpoint’s growing technology and health care industries. For these reasons, supporting PTECH and the growth of NIC locally are high priorities.
In recent years, Sandpoint has seen significant growth in technology related industries. Aerospace, biomedical and information technology, in particular, have taken a foothold. High tech employers provide high paying jobs that serve a global market. The result is an increasingly diversified economy that ensures economic stability. The Mayor intends to continue to support these growing industries and attract new employers to Sandpoint. By serving the needs of existing companies and leveraging assets, the City will retain quality employers and attract the right kind of growth and development in the future.
Mayor Rognstad is committed to improving the quality of life in Sandpoint. This requires a commitment to sustaining environmental health for which Sandpoint has taken many steps in recent years. We’ve partnered with Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper to develop an herbicide-free weed management program for the lake. We’ve created a city-wide zoning code which encourages multimodal connectivity, energy efficiency, community oriented design and reduces our carbon footprint. Looking forward, the Mayor intends to reduce herbicide use in city parks, complete the implementation of the City’s storm water management plan and ensure long term protection of the City’s watershed.
From the mountain to the lake, Sandpoint boasts many recreational opportunities. Residents and visitors alike have long enjoyed the benefits of our signature assets: Lake Pend Oreille and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort. However, recent additions like the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, the Sand Creek Trail and the Watershed Crest Trail have been welcomed additions to our world class park system. Mayor Rognstad will continue to develop opportunities like these in the future.