Archive for the ‘Growth in Moscow’ Category

Thinking Sustainable – Buy Local, Lend Local

January 20, 2011

20 years ago a farmer friend approached me. He wanted to buy a business in Moscow, but being August, his reserves were all tapped out until after harvesting and selling his crop. For a few months I fancied myself the owner of a used book store.

Later the Moscow Food COOP raised funds to move and expand by seeking local private lenders. I was tapped out at the time, but it planted a seed and I wanted to be a local lender again.

Recently I got the chance to be help another local business wanting to expand. I can tell you that the satisfaction seeing the business grow is sweeter than just earning interest in the bank.

All this is coming into focus again. We are doing our taxes on the Peterson Barn Guesthouse and I charted the way the business spends its money. I lumped things into Local (eg Moscow), Idaho (eg statewide), and National (eg everything else). Avista is our biggest National expense and seeing this, it has me thinking about converting it to a local expense.

In this case, to reduce spending with Avista we need to make the barn more energy efficient and self-reliant (eg, more solar and sustainable). That will take some spending, a chunk of which could be local labor. And that will take some capital, which could be local. And the expense of paying for that capital would be local spending, rather than national, keeping more of the money in the community.

Next step: Decide what energy efficiency steps can be taken and what they might cost implemented in local and sustainable ways.

Outcome of Beebe Rezone — Mayor can’t decide

September 19, 2006

CORRECTION, see this retraction.

Original post follows:

I don’t know how Omie is going to cover it, but the events reminded me of the childhood song…

The noble Duke of York, he had 10,000 men.
He marched them up the hill,
he marched then down again…
First they voted it up,
and then they voted it down,
and then they voted half-way up,
which was neither up nor down.

To make matters worse, they repeated the first verse again, moving to pass the rezone, moving to pass the rezone with ‘parking mitigation’ (would that run with the land, if so how??), moving to deny the rezone, moving to table the whole mess for 6 months. Each vote was 3-3 and each time Mayor Chaney sided with the side that would keep any decision from getting made.

The issues seemed to be providing parking and readings of the Comp Plan vs readings of the Zoning code. The Comp Plan says one thing about new CBD and parking, the strict constructionists say the zone is what the zone is (I’m in their camp).

So, approve the rezone with no parking would fail because some wanted parking stipulated.

Add a mitigation plan for parking would fail with those who had problems changing the zone with extra requirements.
Denying the whole thing failed, because “My God” (quote Pall) this is something we want.

Ament wanted to put the whole project on the shelf and couldn’t get a second.

So after at least 6 votes, maybe more the decision was tabled for 2 weeks (first Monday in October) Nobody can talk to anybody.

I can say this, there was good speaking from the audience: Bob and Betsy, a letter from Bruce Livingston, Tom Bode, Kit Crane and BJ. They all made it a thorny issue with multiple facets.

While it got mentioned, no one on Council really said how they think about NSA being required to provide parking in its CUP and this rezone being (or not) similarly required. I think the difference is the CUP was allowing something exceptional in a zone, this is expanding the zone.

My take. Nancy needs to express an opinion, she was given all three choices (yes, no, maybe) at least twice.

Reasons to support the Beebe Rezone

September 19, 2006

This issue is before the Moscow City Council, it involves the rezone of 2+ acres in two parcels in south downtown Moscow, from Industrial to Central Business District (CBD). The parcels each are occupied by a white concrete (mostly) grain elevator. The railroad has pulled out and the elevators are not in use. One is adjacent to the city Hospital.

My comments 9/18/06

Educators talk about the 3Rs. I want to address the 3Ps tonight

Process. I support this project because of what I hope for on the site — the preservation of a grain elevator. It has been pointed out to me that the elevator’s fate is not the agenda item tonight, the zoning is all that is on the table. Its been suggested that the zoning be bundled with other decisions, in this case a PUD, so we had a better guarantee of what would happen. I am torn by this argument, but finally come to this analysis. A building or a use has a shorter life span than a zoning designation. I conclude the process should be unbundled because the question is — should the CBD grow and in this area?

Parking. There may be some who speak against this proposal because it would expand CBD and bring in more lots with no requirements for on-site parking. The choice seems to be between an urban style or in suburban style downtown. I come out on the side of CBD, denser, more walkable, and I think, better aligned with the concepts espoused on the Idaho Smart Growth website. Like buildings or uses, parking is a issue with a shorter life cycle than a zoning decision. I conclude the question is — should the CBD be expanded in a urban style, or has the time past for that style of urban development?

Planning. I hope that the Council is able to act on the advice of New Cities to revise the city Planning documents. As the railroad pulls out of Moscow, among other changes, it makes the urgency of planning clear. Tonight you can send a signal of the direction you want for that new plan. I conclude that the question tonight is —  should the city should grow inward and upward or should it take its growth elsewhere?

A final thought. During the P&Z process it was suggested that the parcels be designated CBD, but with special parking requirements. Jerry Schutz will tell you I spoke ad nauseum  on the problem of parking as a commons. Tonight I’ll just say I think that is a poor idea.  If, and when, the CBD as a collective addresses its parking issues, having some members in different status will make the process more complex. Better that all CBD sites be on an equal footing.

Thoughts on Rezone to CBD; Forget the Parking

July 26, 2006

Comments I’m preparing for presentation to Moscow P&Z tonight (7/26) regarding rezoning 2 parcels to CBD

I’m going to read some tonight from The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup you can buy on this page of the American Planning Association website. You can read the first chapter before you buy in this PDF.

The website says:
“Free parking isn’t really free. In fact, the average parking space costs more than the average car. Initially, developers pay for the required parking, but soon tenants do, and then their customers, and so on, until the cost of parking has diffused throughout the economy. When we shop, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking indirectly because its cost is included in the price of everything from hamburgers to housing ….  But free parking has other costs: It distorts transportation choices, warps urban form, and degrades the environment.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking, namely, charge fair market prices for curb parking, use the resulting revenue to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove zoning requirements for off-street parking. Such measures, according to the Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor, will make parking easier and driving less necessary.”

From the book:

“This book will argue that … there is no such thing as “free” parking. The cost of parking is hidden in higher prices for everything else. In addition to the monetary cost, which is enormous, free parking imposes many other hidden costs on cities, the economy, and the environment.  (pg 1)


“Free curb parking presents a classic “commons” problem. Land that
belongs to the community, and is freely available to everyone without
charge, is called a commons. City life requires common ownership of
much land (such as streets, sidewalks, and parks), but the neglect and
mismanagement of common property can create serious problems.

“The archetypical commons problem occurs on village land that is freely
available to all members of a community for grazing their animals. This
open-access arrangement works well in a small community with plenty
of grass to go around. But when the community grows, so does the num-
ber of animals, and eventually, although it may take a while to notice it,
the land is overrun and overgrazed. Harvard economist Thomas
Schelling describes the problem:

‘The commons has come to serve as a paradigm for situations in which people
so impinge on each other in pursuing their own interests that collectively they
might be better off if they could be restrained, but no one gains individually
by self-restraint. …’ (17)

“Free curb parking is an asphalt commons: just as cattle compete in their
search for scarce grass, drivers compete in their search for scarce curb
parking spaces. Drivers waste time and fuel, congest traffic, and pollute
the air while cruising for curb parking, and after finding a space they have
no incentive to economize on how long they park. …. (pg 7)


“Although urban planners have not ignored the commons problem created by free curb parking, they have misdiagnosed it. Planners have identified the source of the problem not as the city’s failure to charge market prices for curb parking, but as the market’s failure to supply enough off-street parking. Cities therefore require ample on-site parking for all new buildings. The logic behind this policy is simple: development may increase the demand for parking, but cities can require developers to provide enough on-site spaces to satisfy this new demand. If a new building increases the demand for parking by 100 spaces, for example, cities can require it to provide 100 new spaces so that competition for the scarce curb parking doesn’t increase. Curb parking remains a commons, and cities require enough off-street parking to satisfy the increased demand.” (pg 8)

Last time, P&Z was thinking about requiring Beebe’s development to provide ample parking. Beebe even offered to do this on the most southernly parcel. You then moved in the direction of seeking a ‘parking mitigation’ plan.

Beebe (following Shoup) might have proposed his mitigation plan as elimination of free parking throughout the CBD, arguing that the market would better allocate parking than the commons. Would such a plan have been accepted?

Returning to the book:
“Most markets depend on prices to allocate resources—so much so that it’s hard to imagine they could operate in any other way. Nevertheless, cities have tried to manage parking almost entirely without prices. To see the absurdity of this policy, look at it from a new perspective. Cities require off-street parking because the market supposedly fails to provide enough of it. But the market fails to provide many things at a price every-
one can afford. For instance, it fails to provide affordable housing for many families. Advocates for affordable housing usually find themselves in an uphill battle, but without a second thought cities have imposed
requirements to ensure affordable parking. Rather than charge fair-market prices for on-street parking, cities insist on ample off-street parking for every land use. As a result, most of us drive almost everywhere we go.”
(pg 8 & 9)

He goes on to analyze the larger social impacts of driving everywhere.

Consider another local example, the Food COOP.  The COOP is struggling with congestion in its parking lot, and from what I can gather, the COOP feels that some of the problem originates from people who park in their lot and then go elsewhere. The COOP is part of the free parking commons downtown.

To be as charitable as possible, let’s assume that everyone who parks in the COOP lot shops in the COOP, but then some of them run across to Howard Hughes or peek into Goodwill, or do another quick errand without moving their car. The COOP is unwittingly supplying part of the parking to the downtown commons. Were they to add another parking spot, or free one up by getting anther customer to use alternative transportation, the gain is not  theirs alone, it is a benefit to all their neighbors.  In the current situation, there is no incentive for any CBD property to add free parking because it is to the advantage of their neighbors and a cost to themselves. Its a situation of one member paying to build more commons.

Murf said it in his editorial (6/16) following the Beebe hearing: “Parking downtown is a problem that the City leadership needs to address.” I agree. Its time for some leadership from Council on this issu

While we await that leadership I suggest that P&Z not make the solution more complicated by bringing new parcels into CBD with special parking requirements. The proposal tonight is asking to join its self to the parking commons on the standard terms, and I assume its done with the knowledge that when there is a solution, the costs of the solution will be applied across all the members of the CBD.

I’d suggest you bring more parcels into CBD on the same footing, with no special parking requirements imposed and let developers decide if and how they provide onsite parking  — and keep pushing the real problem to Council.

Or, you could find that more CBD, with its mixed use, smart growth potential, is not in the interests of Moscow and direct retail development elsewhere (forbid the thought).

Liberal Moscow » Smart Growth/Dumb Growth: First Post

June 4, 2006

Liberal Moscow » Smart Growth/Dumb Growth: First Post

Why do Moscow’s “pro-growth” proponents insist that we need more retail space? The Tidyman’s building is empty; the Rodeo Center is empty; the Village Mall looks like Village of the Damned; and our two major malls are mausoleums. Looks to me like we have an excess of retail space. What we need, it seems to me, are more light industrial and mixed-use zones. Thoughts? Comments? Solid evidence?

First, of all, I’m using the “Press It” plugin for Firefox to blog a quote from a web page. Second, I’d tracking back from my blog to Lib Moscow, rather than commenting there — I think multi-blog dialogs are the furture, rather than lists like v2020 or multi-author blogs. The challenge is how to keep would be readers notified — the “push” factor.
On the substance of the question… There seems to be a lot of vacant retail space. I presume that there “should” always be some vacant space, much like there is always unemployment. The issue is, a lot of that space has been vacant a long time. I’ve heard that Sears continued to pay rent on their store in Eastside for many years — keeping it off the market?

Rodeo Center not filling, or Tidyman’s remaining empty seem to be bigger issues. There was (I don’t see it now) a photo essay of empty retaill spaces started at  that showed quite a few spaces, in many places around town, of many sizes and characters. It didn’t get used in testimony and maybe disappeared.
So, why favor retail. It happens fast. It looks like growth. It happens with other people’s money on their speculation? The scale of the money involved is larger? The result increases the Chamber’s membership?
Housing takes local speculation. The money is smaller (per unit).

Light industrial that brings jobs and new wealth into the community takes time, and is complex to achieve.

Why no one is championing success at UI and partnership with them as an engine for community development baffles me.