November 9, 2020

The City will vote TOMORROW NIGHT on a plan to incentivize development around the former Pole Yard Superfund site just north of our neighborhood.

On Tuesday, November 10, the City Commission will vote whether to provisionally adopt Ordinance No. 2055 (Agenda Item 4), which would create the Pole Yard Urban Renewal District to incentivize development off L Street between I-90 and the railroad. If passed, the Commission will have a second, final reading in the near future.

The City County Board of Health has submitted a letter asking the City Commission to delay any efforts to create an Urban Renewal District (URD) for the property until the City determines uses for the property and development requirements that would be protective of human health and the environment. For these reasons, we recommend that the Commission not move ahead with creation of an Urban Renewal District at this time."  

They further request that "A special zoning district should be created, and appropriate permitted uses should be carefully vetted by the Zoning Board and the City, and a memorandum of understanding between the City and EPA should be executed."

We stand with the Board of Health and ask that the City Commission REJECT the proposal to create an Urban Renewal District for the Pole Yard Area at this time.

Please consider writing a letter to the Commissioners at before 12:00pm on Tuesday, November 10, 2020. You may also comment by visiting the Commission’s comment page in advance of this decision or by joining the WebEx meeting. (Scroll down for instructions on how to attend the meeting.)

  • 82 acres on the Idaho Pole site were "delisted" from the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) last year, but the saturated soils beneath the surface remain on the NPL. Digging into the saturated soils will be necessary for any development. Why is the City incentivizing development of the Idaho Pole site before determining whether it is safe to do so? 
  • While the URD plan does mention the land use restrictions (“Institutional Controls” or ICs) put in place as part of the Superfund remediation that limit redevelopment to industrial use, it does not mention the recently published Five Year Review by the EPA, which concludes that the site is currently leaching contaminants to the groundwater above acceptable risk standards.
  • This property is trapped between I-90 and the railroad, with inadequate access. All the traffic generated from development would route through the residential NE neighborhood unless the city invests in a new arterial route.
  • The URD Plan mentions the lack of a grade-separated RR crossing as an example of a safety hazard at the site, but the engineering document does not include a grade separated crossing in its list of transportation upgrades that “must” be done.
  • In the City Engineer’s “Statement of Infrastructure Deficiency” it lists Front Street as a “local street” that must be constructed according to standards. Yet the City Commission just last week approved creating the Front Street pedestrian-only trail. In addition, the 2017 Transportation Plan does not show Front St as a developed road, it shows it as a pedestrian/bicycle trail.
  • Should the City be voting to incentivize development in this area before projecting the potential costs of the infrastructure needs and compare that to the potential tax revenue that could be generated by new development?
  • The URD Plan will establish a Board to administer the district, but has chosen to use City staff rather than citizens, as is the case with the NE Urban Renewal Board. Should this district be administered by staff rather than by citizens?
For additional and more in-depth information:
  1. The EPA FAQ on “Redevelopment of the Idaho Pole Co. Superfund Site"
  2. The City's website on the Pole Yard and the URD process
  3. letter from the Board of Health to the City Commission
  4. The staff memo to the Commission, which contains the URD plan and other information pertinent to the vote on this issue. 

Please share your thoughts and concerns with the City Commission!

Comments can be emailed to prior to 12:00pm on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. You may also comment by visiting the Commission’s comment page.

Link for the virtual meeting at 6 pm Tuesday via Webex:

[Five or ten minutes before the 6 pm meeting, click the "Register" link, enter the required information, and click "submit." Click "Join Now" to enter the meeting.]


If you are not able to join the Webex meeting and would like to provide oral comment you may send a request to with your phone number, the item(s) you wish to comment on, and the City Clerk will call you during the meeting to provide comment. You may also send the above information via text to 406-224-3967. As always, the meeting will be streamed through the Commission’s video page (click the Streaming Live in the drop down menu).

Thank you for all you do for the neighborhood!


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