Wednesday, December 08, 2021
32.0°F

Jason Welker

| October 20, 2021 1:00 AM

Office sought: Sandpoint City Council

Education: Bachelors in Economics, Seattle University, Masters in Teaching, Whitworth University (Spokane)

Occupation: Executive director of Pend Oreille Pedalers, Business Administrator of Schweitzer Alpine Racing School, Economics textbook author and educational content creator, Chairman of Sandpoint Planning & Zoning Commission.

Family: Wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Libby, 9

Website: http://www.jasonwelkerforsandpoint.com

  1. Since being appointed to the city’s Planning & Zoning commission in 2019 I have seen a pattern of development that concerns me. Exemplified by city council’s reversal of P&Z’s recommendation in 2020 to reject the development proposal for the former U of I property on Boyer, which the commission believed failed to fulfill the community’s vision for that property, development in Sandpoint over the last two years, in my opinion, has put the desires of developers for short-term profits over the needs of our community for affordable workforce housing. Furthermore, the seeming desire to redevelop our downtown area in the model of a resort community aimed at attracting more tourists misses the mark and fails to put the values and desires of Sandpoint residents first.

  2. Trained as an economist, I have had a 13-year career teaching economic development, micro, and macroeconomics at institutions in four countries, all while calling Sandpoint home since 2004. My understanding of the complex relationships between public and private institutions, and the interplay between free market forces and government in the promotion of the public interest, makes me uniquely qualified to understand, evaluate, and make decisions that effectively weigh the various costs and benefits for the long-term betterment of our community.

    1. The need to provide housing that is affordable to people who work in the local economy: The single-family home subdivision will not provide housing for the people who need it most, on whose labor our economic vitality and quality of life depends.
  3. Pedestrian and cyclist connectivity: Our Urban Area Transportation plan puts cars before people, and makes the kind of development envisioned by our Comprehensive Plan impossible. We must slow vehicles down where necessary and invest in sidewalks and non-motorized pathways to make Sandpoint safer and more liveable for humans over cars.

  4. Wastewater treatment and water quality protection; We have outgrown our 80 year old wastewater treatment plant; its replacement will be the single largest infrastructure project Sandpoint has ever taken on. Furthermore, our lake cannot be the only source of drinking water. We must protect the city’s Watershed from development and conserve the clean water it provides for the future.

    1. Housing: The city must adopt a system of incentives and amend city code to promote denser development in multi-family zones. Creative solutions to provide housing for the middle and working classes are needed: townhomes, ADUs, duplexes, cottage developments, and more. Developers will not do this on their own, the city must motivate them to build the housing we need.
  5. Connectivity: The Parks Master Plan must be broadened beyond the four specific parks it describes and include connectivity between where people live and where they recreate, work, or go to school. Creative funding sources must be pursued to pay for the pedestrian infrastructure that makes Sandpoint liveable.

  6. Water: We should explore broadening our base of ratepayers for wastewater treatment to enable us to pursue the funding needed for its updating. We should acquire and conserve in permanent easements the remaining parcels of property in our 7,000 acre watershed to protect them from unwanted development.

  7. I would request public workshops be restarted aimed at updating our 2009 Comprehensive Plan. We are required by state law to update it every 10 years. When COVID started, this process was put on hold. The public must be re-engaged in planning for Sandpoint’s future.

  8. The continued development of single-family subdivisions in neighborhoods zoned for multi-family. This is important because there are very few developable lots remaining in Sandpoint, and single-family homes that sell for over $400,000 will not solve our housing crisis. We must build with more density where density is allowed to provide housing for everyone who needs it.

  9. I have proven myself as a capable and confident leader in city government over two years of sitting in council chambers every other week as a member and later as chairman of the Planning & Zoning commission. My record as an advocate for the interest of Sandpoint residents is strong. I wish to carry this experience into a council seat and bring my voice as an advocate for the people to the next level.

  10. The question should be, is Sandpoint going in the right direction? The city government should provide the rudder that steers development; but sometimes the pressures for growth are so strong that the ship becomes difficult to steer. We have a strong council today, and an even stronger city staff, made up of competent professionals who care deeply about Sandpoint. The pace and path of growth, however, has become overwhelming and a reset is needed. This means re-engaging the public through the update of our Comprehensive Plan to better understand how residents’ values and desires have changed since 2009.

  11. Have you read and are you familiar with the details of Sandpoint’s Comprehensive Plan? My answer is “yes.”

  12. Sandpoint is already an extremely attractive place for people to work and live. The main obstacle to local businesses attracting and retaining workers is simply the lack of workforce housing. I have outlined above some ideas for increasing availability of workforce housing. Many solutions were presented in the city’s 2019 Housing Needs Assessment. This should be revisited by council and its recommendations adopted.

  13. Here are just a few suggestions:

Require that a portion of the land in new developments be set aside for workforce housing

Encourage Planned Unit Developments, which allow for mixed housing types and increased density

Provide relief from development impact fees or infrastructure costs for developments that include workforce housing

Public/private partnerships with area’s largest employers to provide employer-subsidized housing solutions for seasonal workers

Allocate share of a local option tax for incentives for workforce housing development

Deed restricted housing requiring year-round residence and/or employment by local business.

There are many other solutions that have been proposed but not pursued.

  1. Before the pandemic started Sandpoint regularly hosted visioning meetings and workshops that brought hundreds of members of the public into the city’s master planning processes (including myself). The Comp Plan needs updating; I would ask that the city restart these regular community engagement efforts and formally update the Comp Plan by the end of 2022.