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  • Writer's pictureBruce Mattare

How Will You Vote on the $50 Million Open Space Bond?

If you don't know, there is a bond measure on the ballot this November 7. It has to do with a bond measure that, if passed, allows the county to borrow funds to purchase open space on the Rathdrum Prairie (primarily). I will tell you what I think later, but first...

The purpose of this is to allow the County to purchase undeveloped land (open space) and designate it park land for the public to use AND so it will never be developed. For those of you think Kootenai County isn't growing fast enough, then you will hate it. However, if you'd like to put the brakes on growth and see less density, then here's an opportunity for you to have a direct say in the direction of future growth.


That was a popular sticker people used to put on their cars (and still do as evidenced on the above image). Well, when it comes to growth, there is no free pass.

You see, as our community grows and becomes more dense, you will pay for that growth. It will be in the form of sitting in more traffic...standing in longer lines...or paying a few extra bucks to preserve our open spaces and reduce available land to develop. But you will pay for it.

Now you have a say in how you want to pay for it.

That's why I want you to know more information about the open space bond. It was an idea that was conceived before I became your commissioner, but I was selected among the Board members to communicate its features. If you want more information about this bond, please click here.

How the Money is Spent

This is the most common question I get about it. To begin with, if the public approves this bond (in Idaho it takes a 2/3 majority to approve debt), then the County will have the ability to raise up to $50 million for the specific purpose of purchasing land (park land) for only public use. It can never be developed. It can never be used for fair grounds. It can never be sold for a profit or future development. It can only be used for open space park land for you, the Kootenai County Citizen, to use.

After the bond is approved, the County begins its search for real estate that it can purchase. It could happen in 10 days, 10 years or any time in-between. There is no deadline to find and purchase real estate.

Next, when a property is found and purchased (say for $10 million), the County borrows that same amount and begins making payments at a 20-year amortization rate. Only then will the servicing of that debt be realized in your property tax bill.

Say that another property isn't purchased until 10 years later and it cost $20 million. The County borrows another $20 million and begins making payments on that loan with a 20-year payment schedule. Only until the County begins making payments on this loan will it be reflected in your property taxes.

Here's a quick Q&A about the bond:

Does the County borrow $50 million after the voters approve it?

NO. It borrows and repays the money when it finds real estate to purchase and turn into park land.

Is there a time limit to spend the money?

No. It is spent when real estate is purchased.

Will I see the full increase on my property taxes if the bond is approved?

No. You will not see any increase in your property taxes until money is borrowed to purchase park land.

Does the County already have land it plans on purchasing?

No. It won't begin searching in earnest until you, the voters, approve the bond.

How much will I pay?

About $38 / year assuming the example below:

If Your Home is Valued at $600,000 Subtract ($125,000) for Your Homeowner’s Exemption This Leaves You With $475,000 of Taxable Value

You can expect to pay $38 / year if the County borrows the ENTIRE $50 MILLION.

Here are some comments from a constituent that I'd like to address:

I'm extremely opposed to it and almost want to make a website to show why it's wrong.

Mattare: I hope you've researched all of the facts behind it and understand that more density will lead to more regulations and a very VERY different way of life in this relatively rural area.

1. Government has no authority to buy land or build something not needed for government purposes.

Mattare: Actually, it happens all of the time.

2. The only people that will use it are libs that want to walk their dogs. Libs that live closer to a farmer's field will go to it and trespass to walk their dog (like they do now) instead of driving to the open space.

Mattare: Huh? The people I've spoken with would use the open space for biking, 4-wheeling or riding dirt bikes. I have not spoken to a single person who wants to walk his or her dog. However, it would be there if somebody does want to walk their "Fido."

3. The aquifer is already protected by Co ordinance limiting 1 septic system/ house per 5 acre over aquifer unless connected to city sewer system.

Mattare: As long as the land remains in the County. However, once it is annexed into a city that changes and density can and will increase.

4) every new development that gets approved is required by city to donate 20 or 40 acres as a park / open space plus set land aside for the school district.

Mattare: I'm not familiar with this specifically, but generally large developments do have some park space set aside for the development, but none of this affects large tracts of land that still get developed.

5) taxpayers will pay increasing taxes to maintain the spaces.

Mattare: Yes, but a minimal amount as illustrated with a $38/year estimate for a $600k home.

6) More regulations will come limiting what can be done at these locations ... No motorized vehicle, no mountain bikes, only hiking, no camping.

Mattare: It's certainly possible, but that depends on how vigilant voters are with electing County Commissioners to execute their will. One thing you can bank on is that more rules, ordinances and laws will follow more density. This is why you see more regulation in cities compared to the County.

7) this is purely a socialist idea practiced in France and Europe. Look at what liberal Boulder, Colorado has done with this over the years and how it is limiting their growth now.

Mattare: I cannot speak to Europe or France but limiting growth and density is exactly the intention of this bond.

8) Bruce Mattare is using this to gain liberal support.

Mattare: To the contrary. Being a Conservative means preserving (or conserving) our way of life. Density (for all intents and purposes) leads to more rules and laws (i.e., liberal policies).

9) I don't want to pay any taxes on something that has no benefits to my family.

Mattare: I can appreciate the sentiment, but if it reduces traffic and the woes of living in a higher density community, one could reasonably argue it is a benefit.

10) how did county get other park lands? We didn't fund their purchase with a bond.

Mattare: Often the land the county owns has been donated or purchased. The challenge is that the County doesn't have the money to make so many large purchases. This is a way to still purchase large tracts of open space land before they get developed.

Where do I stand?

Speaking personally, I like just about any idea that can help mitigate density in our community. This is one of them and it's relatively inexpensive given the impact it can have on congestion and the draw on county and city services that growth has.

My only concern is that we (i.e., the County) needs to get this right and serve the citizens well. As your Commissioner, I will make sure we do that.

Please share this blog with family and friends.

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