Housing continued to be a major topic at last week’s Timber Plus meeting.

Timber Plus hosted a panel discussion on housing solutions in the city of St. Maries. Chairman Alex Barta noted that a lot of developers and city officials he has spoken with have noted a lack of an established process when it comes to building in city limits.

City Council Member Ed Spooner said the city used to have a development packet that would be given to developers but does not know what happened to the document.

“I think the city wants to know, what are we supposed to do?” Spooner said. “In the past when we would work with a developer we’d put water and sewer in, the street in, city specs. It wasn’t a big deal. I don’t know what the big deal is now.”

Local developer Troy Lozano expressed his frustration with the process and said he would like to know what the next steps are to complete projects that were proposed to the city.

So far he has submitted building permit requests for the $7.5 million apartment complex project and a smaller housing project. He said he is hoping to get some clarification on the process based on the results of the pending permits.

Spooner said he would try to have a development packet for the January Timber Plus meeting. Lozano offered to coordinate with the city to help come up with a development plan.

In other news Valley Vista and Benewah Community Hospital CEO Chuck Lloyd gave a presentation on the proposed Psychiatric Hospital to be built in St. Maries.

He said in the past local authorities would have to drive patients outside of the county to seek care. Sometimes the patient would be turned away due to a lack of beds.

“We are wanting to solve our own issue,” Lloyd said. “We were looking in Coeur d’Alene for property but our corporate office is here, this is where it all began so we decided to find property here.”

The facility will be a free standing psychiatric health facility that will be for short term care. The facility is planned to have 16 beds. Lloyd mentioned that Valley Vista has purchased property by its facility on Anderson Heights and also mentioned the possibility of some property on the St. Maries River Road.

Barta announced that a group called Imagine Idaho has stepped in to support the Timber Plus efforts to bring telemedicine access to residents throughout rural parts of the county.

Imagine Idaho is a group with the goal of providing broadband access to all of the citizens of Idaho and has seen the telemedicine project as a way to help with that goal. Barta said the group awarded Timber Plus a $10,000 grant to create a map of the county to show where there is and isn’t broadband access in Benewah County.

Barta also announced the Innovia Foundation is starting up its next grant cycle and is seeking organizations that benefit the community to apply.

The Innovia Foundation has awarded money to the Lumberjack Booster Club, Fernwood Senior Center and other organizations in the county.

The application process starts in December.

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