Post Falls mayoral candidates consider city’s residential, economic growth

<p><p>The mayoral candidates of Post Falls share similar concerns about the city’s growth, but have different plans to approach the issue.</p></p><p><p>Mayor Ron Jacobson, 65, said he is a proponent for expanding the city’s residential areas and economic development, but he wishes it would all slow down. Jacobson, who is registered as a Republican, was first elected in 2013 and is running for his third mayoral term. He has lived in the city since 1980.</p></p><p><p>Post Falls does not solicit residential growth, but it comes naturally as more businesses like Sysco Foods and Kenworth are drawn into the city, Jacobson said. Several multifamily units, specifically apartment complexes, have been popping up in the city, but he does not think they will be sustainable long term.</p></p><p><p>“I don’t shy away from letting my feelings be shown about housing and growth,” Jacobson said.</p></p><p><!–[photo id=748694]–></p><p><p>However, as mayor, he does not have the power to approve or deny bids for residential growth unless there is a tie. Residential decisions are made and voted by the Post Falls Planning and Zoning Commission.</p></p><p><p>Challenger Austin Hildebrand, 29, said he does not think the commission should have the power to make big decisions for the city because its members are not elected by the city’s residents.</p></p><p><p>“The city has done well, historically, on managing growth, but I don’t know if we can say that for the last 10 years,” Hildebrand said.</p></p><p><p>Hildebrand has lived in Post Falls on and off since he was 18, but he purchased a house in the city with his wife in January 2020. This is his first time running for office. He identifies as a Libertarian.</p></p><p><!–[photo id=748693]–></p><p><p>He said he has seen several rezoning requests posted in his own neighborhood, and he wants to stop the requests. Rezoning occurs when a landowner wants to change the use of the land, like switching from a commercial zoning to residential.</p></p><p><p>Hildebrand also does not like the city’s six active urban renewal districts.</p></p><p><p>Jacobson said the districts are one of Idaho’s few tools available to attract businesses to economically depressed areas within the city. The districts close after 20 years, leaving a payout for the city and other taxing entities like the city’s school and fire districts.</p></p><p><p>Hildebrand said he has a limited understanding of the district, but he has met with an official who manages some of them. He wants to investigate where the money from the district’s closing goes and what it is being used for.</p></p><p><p>Two or three more districts will be closing in the coming years, Jacobson said.</p></p><p><p>Annexing nearby land, known as the Rathdrum Prairie, into the city is also a concern for the candidates.</p></p><p><p>Hildebrand does not want any more of the land annexed because he wants to protect the aquifer. He said there has to be a really good reason for annexing land, whether it is by companies or individuals.</p></p><p><p>“If you give land from private individuals to the government, the government won’t do good things with them,” he said.</p></p><p><p>When Jacobson was younger, Post Falls residents used the land they owned in the prairie to farm, but they are no longer able to. So now those landowners are looking to sell the land to the city or to other developers.</p></p><p><p>“They have the right to sell that land, but timing is a big issue,” Jacobson said.</p></p><p><p>Hildebrand said he wants to boost the economy by giving incentives to small businesses to move into the area. He wants to have a variety of businesses, including restaurants and thrift stores, available in Post Falls so residents do not travel to larger cities like Spokane to shop. The incentives will either be monetary or allow small businesses to get started without a lot of “red tape.”</p></p><p><p>Hildebrand said he would like to examine the city’s budget and see where money could be saved. For him, levies and increased taxes are an absolute last resort. As a small business owner – Hildebrand owns High Society Brewery – he said he knows how to balance a budget.</p></p><p><p>Jacobson said there is a tax shift occurring in Post Falls: property taxes are increasing because the value of homes is going up. If reelected, he wants to continue trying to decrease those taxes, possibly through homeowner exemptions.</p></p><p><p>“I’m not trying to dump everything on commercial property,” he said. “But we’ve seen that shift, and we need to address it.”</p></p><p><p>Jacobson said his 43 years of experience in banking help him manage the city’s finances.</p></p><p><p>As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, both candidates said they would oppose a mask mandate.</p></p><p><p>In the past, Jacobson said he would support a mandate, but has since realized it would be difficult to enforce. However, he does support mask use and vaccination against COVID-19.</p></p><p><p>Hildebrand said he wants residents to do what they think is best for themselves, and that includes wearing masks or getting vaccinated. He said he is not supportive of another possible shutdown.</p></p><p><p>Hildebrand said it should be up to businesses and people to decide what is best for themselves. The lack of government interference into residents’ daily lives is part of his platform.</p></p><p><p>“My platform is to protect individual liberties, bring responsible stewardship and eliminate taxes,” he said.</p></p><p><p>Jacobson said he has the experience necessary to serve the city, as well as the desire to do it.</p></p><p><p>“This is a nonpartisan race,” he said. “I think it is imperative that all candidates are vetted by all people.”</p></p>