Cindy Elliott

Cindy Elliott
Candidate for Sandpoint City Council

Age: 56

Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: 21 years

Marital status/family: Married to Roger Hanlon.  Two adult sons, two adult stepdaughters and two grandchildren.

How can the public contact you?   263-8517 or [email protected]

Education: Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Montana State University – Billings. Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga University School of Law, with honors.

Recent or pertinent employment history:  Partner in the law firm Elsaesser Jarzabek Anderson Marks Elliott & McHugh
Legal counsel to Bonner General Hospital, its Board of Directors and to Bonner Community Hospice

Public offices held:  

Sandpoint City Council, January 1999 to present
Secretary of the Pend Oreille Hospital District
2005 Appointment to the First Judicial District Magistrate Commission
First District Bar Association President 1994-1995

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong:  Pend Oreille Arts Council, Panida Theater, Friends of the Library, Friends of the Shelter, and the Economic Development Corporation of Sandpoint

Relevant experience you wish to include or mention:  To learn more about some of the services the city provides in a realistic setting, I job shadowed a city police officer during a Friday night shift and the city snow removal crew starting at 2 a.m. following a night of heavy snowfall. Those experiences have helped me better understand some of the challenges in the work of policing the downtown on a weekend night and in removing snow from the city streets. 

2003 - Attended the Association of Idaho Cities Academy for City Officials

2004 - Attended the Association of Idaho Cities seminar on Planning & Zoning in Idaho

2005 - Attended the Idaho Attorney General’s Office seminar on Public Records and the Open Meeting Law

Since joining the council, I was instrumental in recognizing the need for and bringing about change in two important areas:
The city’s acquisition of the land on which the Lake Water Treatment Plant is sited.  Prior to that acquisition, the city leased that property.  The terms of the lease allowed the landlord sole discretion in setting the amount and frequency of rent increases.  Those terms also allowed the landlord to give the city 30 days notice that the lease was terminated, which would have triggered the requirement that the city remove the water treatment plant from that property.

The city’s negotiated agreement with the Independent Highway District that gives the city control of its own streets and of revenue sources that would have otherwise gone to the Independent Highway District.  The city areas that have been positively impacted by this change:  The city can now efficiently plan and coordinate its street asphalt overlay program with utility upgrades. The city now has an annual street overlay program.  We have also been able to adopt a streetscape ordinance that provides set standards for sidewalks, curb, curb ramps and gutters in both residential and commercial development.  It also means that only one entity has to review and approve applications for building permits, encroachment permits, plats and planned unit developments.

I promoted and supported Mayors Graves and Miller in the creation of various citizen advisory committees and commissions.  For example:  the Historic Preservation Committee, the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Arts Commission and the Gem Team.

I also supported Mayor Miller in a new addition to the regular city council agenda:  a public forum which gives people the opportunity to speak on any matter whether or not it’s on that particular council agenda.  The only exception is matters that are on the agenda for a public hearing – which is when people can speak to the council.

Response to issues questionnaire

1. The city is currently weighing a plan to create two urban renewal districts, one to encompass downtown and the second to include an area at the north end of the city near the airport. These URDs are intended to provide funding mechanisms to complete downtown revitalization and rebuild Great Northern Road to encourage industries to locate in Sandpoint. Do you favor or oppose the urban renewal plan? If opposed, would you still want to carry out those projects and, if so, how would you fund them?

I support the current urban renewal efforts that began early in 2005.  Information about the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency is posted on the city’s website along with the minutes from each meeting.  These meetings are open to the public and have received good coverage in the media.

Authorized by Idaho Code, there are 39 other Idaho urban renewal agencies currently in existence.  In Boise, the new Ada County Courthouse was an urban renewal agency project funded in part with urban renewal monies in a partnership with Ada County and a private developer.  Dover, Coeur d’Alene, Caldwell, Post Falls, Moscow and Lewiston have each created urban renewal agencies.

Earlier this year, the city council created the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency and appointed board members:  Mark Williams, Nancy Hadley, Eric Paull, Debbie Meaux and John Corn.  Recently and upon the recommendation of the board, the city council defined two separate districts:  the Northern Urban Renewal Area and the Downtown Urban Renewal Area.  Maps of these areas are available at city hall. The urban renewal plans for the northern and downtown urban renewal areas have not yet been presented to the council for consideration.

The Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency is now creating the details of the urban renewal plans for both the northern and downtown areas that will include the projects, the costs and the impact on taxes, if any. The Sandpoint planning and zoning commission will review these plans and make its recommendations to the city council.  Next the city council will hold a public hearing to consider whether or not to adopt the plans.  With or without urban renewal plans in place, the city of Sandpoint’s tax levy remains subject to the 3% cap. 

2. The city of Sandpoint has about 8,000 residents, yet as the center of services for a county of about 40,000, the city taxpayers bear the costs of services and infrastructure for outlying county residents as well as tourists. Do you believe these costs should be more fully shared, and if so how would you propose to spread the burden among more taxpayers?

Yes, these costs should be more fairly shared, and Sandpoint has already taken action on some of the available options.  These alternate revenue options include the following:

Urban Renewal – Tax Increment Financing that encourages economic development and potential for these benefits:  more county residents doing business in Sandpoint; maintenance and growth of local employment opportunities; necessary infrastructure installed.

Resort City Tax – On January 1, 2003, the city’s Resort City Tax became effective.  This is a 5% tax on hotel/motel room stays of 30 days or less.  The ordinance provides that the revenue from this tax be used for the following purposes:  city infrastructure and capital projects, street overlays, sidewalk repair and replacement and additional bike paths, public safety services.  Resort city tax collected in excess of what has been budgeted is placed in the property tax relief fund that is used to replace city property taxes in the next fiscal year.  In the two and a half years that this ordinance has been in effect, the city has collected $537,223.96 in revenue (through 8/31/05).  This revenue has been used to replace $30,500 in property taxes for the 2005/2006 fiscal year and has been used to help fund the following:  downtown revitalization in the past three years, the new downtown restrooms, the new sidewalk at Lakeview Park, the bicycle path at Popsicle Bridge, the upcoming Sand Creek pedestrian bridge, emergency medical services training for the Sandpoint Fire Department, improvements that will be made to the city parking lot and wages for city beach lifeguards.  This tax has provided proven tax relief by using tourist dollars to fund city projects and replace funds that would otherwise have been collected from residents. This tax ends on December 31, 2007, and should be taken back to the voters for re-approval. 

Development Impact Fees – This fee is imposed as a condition of development approval to pay for a proportionate share of the cost of capital improvements needed to serve the development. This fee can be assessed to pay for the following types of public infrastructure:  water treatment and distribution, wastewater treatment, streets, parks and recreation areas and public safety facilities. Earlier this year, Sandpoint retained a consultant that prepared a Development Impact Fee Program for park, police, fire and circulation facilities.  In the next few months implementation of these fees will be reviewed, considered and voted upon.

User Fees – User fees shift the costs of certain services to the users of those services.  Examples include: the city fees for water and sewer services based on actual consumption; fees charged to the groups who use the playing fields in the parks, the fees charged to the people who use the city marina and moorage, the fees charged to the groups who use city facilities (the Pend Oreille Arts Council pays for its use of the City Beach for its annual Arts and Crafts Fair and the Festival at Sandpoint pays for its use of Memorial Field for its annual music festival). 

Potential regionalization of water treatment and distribution services and wastewater services, which would have the effect of spreading the costs of operations and upgrades over a larger number of users.

Encourage the county to apply city development standards to all development, whether commercial or residential, in the area of city impact.  If and when those areas become part of the city, the necessary infrastructure will already be in place.

Encourage the state legislature to authorize cities and counties to enact local option taxes that would allow voters to approve an increase in sales tax at the local level to generate funds for specific projects or purposes.

3. Housing prices are dramatically increasing in Sandpoint, while local wages are increasing far more slowly – effectively precluding many residents who work in the local economy from purchasing a home. Do you have ideas to address the increasing inequality of housing and income in our community?

This is issue is not new and one over which the city has little influence and less control.  For decades, the cost of homes in Sandpoint and Bonner County has exceeded the cost of homes in surrounding areas and outpaced wage increases.  The cost of housing is driven by market conditions.  The city, through its planning commission, can implement zoning changes to allow greater density in residential housing, in particular through continued encouragement of planned unit developments (PUDs).  PUDs allow a variety of housing types in the same development and include an open space requirement that offsets the decrease in individual lot sizes. The city council can and should make adjustments to its planning and zoning requirements to accommodate the need for existing employers to grow and expand and for new employers/businesses to locate in the city.  The city council can and should encourage this type of economic development which will increase the need for a stable employee base who will be paid market based wages. 

4. Despite the growth, there remains a lack of significant regional planning between the city and county, and between the cities of Sandpoint, Dover, Ponderay and Kootenai. Do you believe there should be regional planning, and if so, what would you do as a councilperson to implement it? Do you feel Sandpoint itself has an adequate Comprehensive Plan and long-range vision? If you believe the Comp Plan is inadequate, what kinds of changes would you like to see and how would you find fund its development?

Regional planning is already under way in three significant areas:

a.  Transportation:   In the past year, Sandpoint participated with Bonner County in the development of the Bonner County Transportation Plan – a study that was recently completed.  This study was a critical component of the recent impact fee study commissioned by Sandpoint and qualified Sandpoint to receive grant funding for the Schweitzer Cutoff Road improvements.  Next month, another phase of transportation planning will start. Representatives of the Independent Highway District, Bonner County, the Idaho Transportation Department and the cities of Sandpoint, Dover, Kootenai and Ponderay will meet to begin development of an urban transportation plan.   Some of the anticipated positive outcomes of this endeavor will be the coordination of street and road projects and the development of uniform street and road standards that would be applied within the boundaries of each of these entities. 

b. Wastewater treatment:  The city of Sandpoint is in the early stages of developing its Wastewater Facility Master Plan.  One of the principal elements in the scope of work for the consultant, J-U-B Engineers, that is working with Sandpoint on the Wastewater Facility Plan is the regionalization of wastewater treatment. Sandpoint has involved Dover, the Kootenai-Ponderay Sewer District, the Southside Sewer District and Schweitzer to the table on this issue.  Elected officials and citizens of those entities, along with the Bonner County Engineer, a Bonner County Commissioner, members of the Tri-State Water Council and representatives from the BCEDC and the DSBA are members of the Sandpoint Wastewater Facility Plan Citizen Advisory Committee. 

c.  Water:  Sandpoint is under constant pressure from surrounding areas to expand its water service boundary.  The city of Sandpoint recently retained CH2M to guide Sandpoint on a Water Facility Plan.  One of the principal considerations is regionalization of water treatment and distribution.  Sandpoint will be inviting Dover, Kootenai and Ponderay to the table on this issue.  A Water Facility Plan Citizen Advisory Committee, will be formed with regional representatives who will begin the work of planning for larger scale water treatment and distribution.

The Comprehensive Plan was first adopted in 1977.  Since then, there have been 61 amendments to the Plan.  Some of the amendments made have been in these areas:  adoption of the North Idaho Bikeways master plan; an airport designation; defined the central business district; brought the Plan into compliance with federal Fair Housing standards and added language about affordable housing, hazardous areas, school transportation and protection of private property rights. 

Sandpoint’s Planning and Zoning Commission has the statutory duty to prepare, implement, review and update the comprehensive plan.  That process provides for public involvement through public hearings.  By statute, “any person” may request that the Planning and Zoning Commission amend the Comprehensive Plan.  Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan must be presented to, considered and approved by the city council.  I have confidence in the skills and work of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and trust them to determine the need for Comprehensive Plan amendments.

5. Downtown traffic and parking are two oft-cited city ills. There are efforts currently under way by the City and the DSBA to improve parking. Do you think these efforts are on the right track? What would you do to improve parking downtown?

Yes, the Downtown Business Association (DSBA) is on the right track by involving the downtown community in working on the parking issue.  I have confidence that the DSBA members will comprehensively generate and consider reasoned options in creating a downtown parking plan and in making their recommendations to the city council.

To improve parking downtown I will continue my support of the city’s phases of downtown revitalization that includes sidewalks, lighting and trees – this will encourage more people to park outside the downtown core and walk.  When completed, the DSBA parking plan will be presented to and considered by the council for approval. 
I am looking forward to receiving the DSBA parking plan even if it means that, as a result of plan implementation, I must purchase a permit to park near my office or park farther from and walk to my office. 

6. Despite announcing more than a year ago that the Sand Creek bypass would begin construction in Fall 2004, the state Department of Transportation still has not obtained permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to fill Sand Creek nor acquired the right-of-way it needs from the railroad. ITD also estimates that, once started, construction will take three or more years. First: Do you favor or oppose the Sand Creek route, and why? Second: Given that, even if the Sand Creek route proceeds it will be many years before completion, do you believe the city should seek traffic solutions more immediately – and what would they be?

The city council supports the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) efforts to route truck and through traffic off of First Avenue.  The city council has taken steps to mitigate the potential impact of the Byway through its downtown revitalization plans.  The city council adopted a resolution in favor of the Sand Creek Byway on March 19, 1984, and readopted that resolution on December 18, 2002.  I voted in favor of the 2002 resolution.  The city is seeking more immediate traffic solutions in working with its neighboring cities, the Independent Highway District, Bonner County and ITD to develop an urban transportation plan. 

7. Part of the downtown revitalization effort has been to convince major institutions to remain in the city core in order to promote commerce downtown. Yet the city itself moved its offices away from downtown several years ago, and now the county is considering moving its offices out of the core. Should the city try to convince the county to remain downtown? Should City Hall move offices back downtown?

The city outgrew its downtown office space, which is why it moved to the 1123 Lake Street location.  This location allows for quick emergency response and highway access for the police and fire departments.  These emergency public safety services should not originate from a downtown core location.

The impact on real property taxes should be a factor that is considered when a decision is made on the location or relocation of any governmental offices.  Property owned by a governmental agency is taken off the real property tax rolls.  The highly valued land in the downtown core generates a significant amount of tax revenue that would be lost if used for governmental offices. 

8. Why are you running for public office?  If you are elected, how much time will you be able to devote each week to city council business?

Sandpoint has been my home since 1984.  This is the town where I have lived, worked, played and raised my family.  I have enjoyed the beauty and lifestyle that many of us value so dearly.  I lived and worked in Sandpoint while commuting daily to law school in Spokane.  After completing law school, I developed my practice here.  City council work is public service work.  This community has been very good to me and by serving on the council I am able to ‘give back’ by using my time and professional training in making decisions for the city.  Continuing to serve on city council will allow me to use my strengths to guide Sandpoint in a time when growth and change seem to be overpowering and inevitable.  

During the last six and a half years serving on city council, I have often volunteered for or have been selected by my peers for many different committees and projects; often serving as a facilitator, negotiator, organizer or chair because of my ability to evaluate complex information, determine a course of action, stay on task and motivate others while keeping the bigger picture in mind. 

Now more than ever it is important for me to work for all of you in helping to visualize and define what this growth and change will be.  Sandpoint can still be the town where families can afford to live, grow, work and play with pride.  This will take someone with my experience, commitment and proven proficiency.  My strengths in recognizing potential problems and bringing about resolution will have a positive impact on the course of city decisions.

Some of the responsibilities I have assumed and diligently performed as a council member:

President of city council for past 3 years, which means that when Ray Miller is out of town I exercise the office of Mayor during his absence.  In this capacity, one of my regular monthly responsibilities is to review bills every month before the council approves payment.

Member of the Personnel Review Committee for past 3 years that meets once a month.

Chair of the Public Works Committee that meets once a month.

President of the Economic Development Corporation of Sandpoint which operates the Bonner Business Center and meets once a month.

Member of the Sandpoint Arts Commission that meets once a month.

Council Member sitting on the Citizen Advisory Committee for the Sandpoint
Wastewater Facility Plan

Chair of the city team that negotiates the new contract with the Sandpoint Fire Department union.  This year we had negotiations on 12 different nights over a four-week period.  Each meeting required many hours of preparation. 

Chair of the City Council Personnel Review Board that was convened to hear the appeals of a former mayor’s decision on several employees’ grievances.

Each of these meetings, including the monthly regular council meetings and any special meetings or workshops, requires advance preparation and review of sometimes lengthy and complex materials.  I would estimate that since I have been on the council, I have spent a minimum of 8-10 hours a week on council business.