A non-profit Boise firm is working with Timber Plus to continue efforts towards building affordable workforce housing in St. Maries.

LEAP Housing has been conducting a study with Benewah County, Timber Plus and the city of St. Maries to review the possibility of building workforce housing on a county owned lot south of Archie’s IGA.

The company recently released a timeline for the concept phase of the project outlining some of the objectives it seeks to complete before a proposal is presented to Benewah County officials in April.

LEAP Housing CEO and founder, Bart Cochran, said that LEAP has been able to collect more data regarding the site. He said right now there are three things that LEAP is trying to study before they present a proposal to the county.

“We are trying to define three main things regarding the project and that’s the financial, community and construction feasibility,” Mr. Cochran said. “We know that there is a significant need for workforce housing in the area.”

He said that over the last month LEAP has been able to collect more data regarding the site’s zoning and any city ordinances that may affect their planning process.

“We have been able to fill many of the gaps,” Mr. Cochran said. “We are starting to get data together.”

Mr. Cochran said LEAP hopes to move into the control phase of the project. He said to do that LEAP needs to reach an agreement with the county regarding the project.

“Right now we are under a memorandum of understanding with the county. Its a non-binding agreement where we look into whether the project work,” Mr. Cochran said. “We want to be able to present a clear idea of how the project will work before we enter the control phase where we will enter a binding agreement with the county because that’s the phase where we will need to start spending money.”

He said that if the county commits to the project after the proposal then LEAP will be able to start funding environmental studies of the lots as well as engineering.

LEAP will also conduct a market study to see how the apartments will fit into the current rental market. Mr. Cochran said that LEAP is anticipating an agreement and the parties involved in the the project seek a $30,000 grant through the Idaho Gem Grant for those studies.

“We are anticipating the grant money and plan on applying by the March 15 deadline since we know that the approval process can take some time,” Mr. Cochran said.

Timber Plus director, Alex Barta, said that the grant will help with part of the funding for the studies needed during the control phase.

He said that so far the county commissioners have shown that they are on board with the project.

“Phil Lampert, Bob Short and Mark Reynolds have all shown that they are believers of this project,” Mr. Barta said. “They see there is a need for what LEAP is trying to do.”

Mr. Barta also commended city clerk, Kriss Gibson, for her help researching questions that LEAP needed answered regarding city ordinances.

“Kriss was really great to work with and she helped us out a lot,” Mr. Barta said. “She was able to get everything we needed in a matter of hours.”

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