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Ronan council advances rezoning request

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RONAN – In spite of numerous objections raised by local residents, the Ronan City Council approved a controversial rezoning request on Monday, July 1.

In a five to one vote, council members agreed to rezone vacant properties totaling nearly 20 acres to one single zoned parcel to accommodate the construction of a proposed multi-building project. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, who are the property owners, presented the rezoning request.

The proposed project will be located north of Dickinson Street, east of 7th Ave NW and west of 3rd Ave, which is behind the Ronan Auto Body shop and the Valley Club Bar and Grill.

The multi-staged building project could include a health center, a 40,000 square-foot wellness and community center, a gymnasium, a longhouse and three 11,000 square-foot supervised supportive housing units.

The council’s decision followed a public hearing where many residents living near the proposed project criticized the rezoning proposal and expressed concern about the project’s potential impact ranging from increased traffic to school and public safety. Several in the audience cited concerns about increased traffic congestion on the narrow streets that will be generated by the proposed development. Along with traffic congestion, pedestrian safety issues where addressed, especially around K. William Harvey Elementary School where streets lack sidewalks or crosswalks for safe passage.

Mayor Kim Aipperspach addressed the issue explaining that the tribe has given certain assurances that it would contribute to the additional needed road infrastructure. “We are working with them, putting in at least one road if not a couple,” said Aipperspach.

Residents also expressed concerns about possible property value loss and additional tax burdens. Another concern was that if the finished supervised housing units are approved for construction and built, then the area could see an increase in drug use and property crime.

Construction on phase one of the health center is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2020. Construction on the following phases will begin with council approval and once funding is obtainable over the next five to 20 years.

Aipperspach said a final plan on the development would still need to be presented and any shared costs with the developer on infrastructure improvements would need to come back to the city council for approval.

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