A property owner in St. Maries hopes to repair her building and open new, refurbished apartments inside it, and the city Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing last week to discuss the project.

Denise Powell Bagley, who inherited the property after her father, Dennis Powell, passed plans to improve it and offer three rental units within the structure. Bagley has filed two applications with the city: the first is a zoning amendment, and the second is a building variance.

“I’m not asking to move the foundation. I’m not trying to go beyond what’s already there,” Bagley said. “I’m basically looking for permission to use the building the way it was built, and to restore it and make it an asset to the neighborhood.”

The commission did not discuss or deliberate on Bagley’s proposal at their meeting last Wednesday, instead choosing to schedule a special meeting for September 28.

Right now, the building vacant and in disrepair, but it has previously been occupied by multiple renters. It has been officially assessed by Benewah County as having six bedrooms, and it has three electric meters and three water heaters. Five years ago, while the building was unoccupied, the lot was re-zoned from multiple-family housing to single-family, a change that Bagley wants reversed.

The official legal notice announcing Bagley’s applications declared that she intended to build a three-story structure, but this was incorrect, and mentioned in her application. She hopes to offer three units--two on the ground floor, and a third upstairs, which she indicated on her application. The variance she applied for is to raise the building’s roof and create more space for the third unit.

Although the Planning and Zoning Commission did not participate in the conversation, Bagley presented her ideas for the property so that the public could comment, and several people did.

“I’m in favor of helping people around here get a place to say,” said Stephanie Morrison, who lives close to the property in question. “We’ve got friends that would like to move here but there’s no place to buy, no place to rent. So I think she would be able to do what she wants with her property.”

Lee Morrison added that improving the lot from its current disrepair would also improve the quality of life and also property values in the neighborhood.

Three people that spoke listed themselves as neutral. St. Maries Fire District Chief Lance Homann said he would want to look at the proposed plans, since a three-unit structure has more commercial fire regulations than a two-unit. Sharon Spier, a neighbor who had previously lived at Bagley’s property, said she would have opposed the three-story construction but had no objection to Bagley’s plan to restore the two existing stories.

Mike Beieler, who lives on the other side of the block, said his concern was about parking on the block. The units for rent would have street parking, and the south end of the lot is across the Jefferson Avenue from St. Maries Middle School, and parking is not allowed on the street during school hours.

Mary Owens, who lives on the same block, wrote to the commission strongly opposing Bagley’s remodel, mainly because of the parking issue, but also citing its current state of disrepair.

Bagley acknowledged the concern over parking, calling it “the elephant in the room.” But, she said, the benefit of having housing available would outweigh the cost of a person parking down the block from their house, rather than right in front.

“The tipping point, for me, is providing clean housing and removing the blight of the way this structure looks,” Bagley said. “I think people are willing enough to find a place to live that they can be flexible on parking.”

The commission told Bagley they would have a final answer for her at the September 28 meeting, and offered no indication as to what their decision would be. The Gazette Record will provide an update after that decision has been made.

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