Friday, August 15, 2008

A Divided City

Picture from Harrison Chamber of Commerce website

I recently visited friends, John and Deena Austin on their custom built houseboat for a couple of days in Harrison, Idaho. Well, actually, part of the reason I was there, was to check out a very pretty, petite young Septuagenarian lady, who runs the City owned campground/RV park. While there, I learned a bunch about current events surrounding this lovely lakefront spa.

It seems that sensing a better deal than Kootenai County offers,Powder Horn Ranch developers, petitioned the city of Harrison, which is contiguous to the planned development, separated only by the Coeur d'Alene River, for annexation. The owners of the Powder Horn Group sweetened the pot by allegedly offering to fork over $31,000,000 for infrastructure improvements. The largest of these are apparently a total rebuild of the City's sewer system, one that uses septic tanks, collectors, and discharges into Lake Coeur d'Alene. Word on the street, has the EPA frowning the current system.

The city council is reputedly split evenly on whether to annex the land, which is approximately 1800 acres. On the conservative side of the argument is,* "hey, we're just fine the way we are without bringing in a bunch of multi-millionaires as neighbors that may take over politically." (*paraphrased collection of observances)

On the progress side, *"Thirty one million dollars isn't pocket change, and we need, badly, the infrastructure improvements to not only build the sewer system, but some streets that are sliding into oblivion. The tax base would increase hugely, and most of the residents would not be registered voters, as their homes would be second and third residences for out-of-state purchasers.

The rough current size of Harrison is about 170 residents with about 120 registered voters. Back in 1915 and again in 1923 when the old shingle mill burned down and was replaced, twice, Harrison was over 10,000 in population. Now the city officials must weigh the benefits and drawbacks to this momentous decision which apparently must be made soon, to make a difference. The new money would amount to $116,104.87 for every man, woman and child now residing in Harrison.

Present at a town meeting called by the Urban renewal committee, Wednesday evening, were many local residents and of course, the anti-urban renewal champion, Spirit Lake, Idaho resident and general all around Gadfly,Larry Spencer. One wag was heard to say,"why doesn't he stay home to answer all of the complaints surrounding his mobile home repo business. This is our town, not his." Apparently, that attitude fell on deaf ears.


Anonymous said...

Harrison could play hardball with the Powerhorn folks...get them to pony up the money for infrastructure, and make Harrison a place to the little Bavarian town in WA. Harrison could be a destination point for historical logging info, the devastating fire in the early 20th century, etc. Powderhorn wants something from Harrision (annexation). Make 'em (powderhorn) pay!


Anonymous said...

Harrison ought to chat with the council/mayor in Donnelly and see how their deal with Tamarack Resort worked out for them? Might also check with Valley County Tax collector and Idaho Dept. Lands on tax and lease collections.

If Intrawest is dumping resorts in firesales to raise cash and pay off crushing debt, just where is Whichman and Fox, et al going to raise development money from? There is not resort or 2nd home land development financing around, primarily because there is absolutely no market for the product.

Powderhorn missed their window, there is no hurry to develop that land--the absorption will take 20 years and will not start for 5-10 years and at prices less than half of what Fox et al used in their original pro formas.

They are just trying for a land use change to try and salvage all the development money they have dumped in this turkey!