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City Council still negotiating city planning rates with Ruen-Yeager

by ROSE SHABABY
Staff Writer | October 7, 2021 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — The City Council tabled discussions, and the signing of an agreement between the city and Ruen-Yeager & Associates, for a third time Tuesday.

Ruen-Yeager, which provides city planning services to Bonners Ferry, sent a memo to city administrator Lisa Ailport in May 2021, advising they would be raising their rates at the beginning of October.

Mayor Dick Staples has repeatedly expressed concern about the increase, specifically the rates for the senior planner and assistant planner. Staples said he contacted the president of Ruen-Yeager, Darius Ruen, in hopes that Ruen would offer what he feels would be a more reasonable rate but that the response from Ruen was not what he hoped for.

The sticking point in negotiations seems to be Ruen-Yeager’s contention that “since 2012, the services have been at a below market rate.”

Ailport said the city initially contracted Ruen-Yeager in 2012 at a rate of $50 an hour for “planner support,” which continued until 2016 when the city hired an in-house planner.

When the planner position was vacated in 2018, the city was unable to find anyone to fill the position and again contracted with Ruen-Yeager. At that time, rates were $65 an hour for a senior planner and $50 an hour for an assistant planner.

Council member Adam Arthur asked if the Consumer Price Index was followed. The CPI measures the average cost of household goods and services through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ruen-Yeager is currently asking for new rates of $85 an hour for the senior planner and $60 an hour for the assistant planner.

Staples asked council to approve sending the suggested rates of $75 an hour for the senior planner and $55 an hour for the assistant manager back to Ruen-Yeager in an attempt to negotiate.

The city council approved the suggestion and further discussion was tabled pending response from Ruen-Yeager.

Contract planner Clare Marley with Ruen-Yeager was also at the meeting to present a summary of proposed code amendments including setbacks and yards, RV park standards, accessory dwelling units and definitions.

Most of the changes addressed issues that have either come up in recent months or related to the issue of ADUs, which came up earlier in the year through a Fair Housing Assessment and addressed the lack of affordable housing in Bonners Ferry.

ADUs are smaller detached or attached housing units placed on the same lot or parcel as the primary dwelling without counting against density standards. They would only be allowed in residential zones and the proposed ordinances would apply to the city of Bonners Ferry only.

ADUs will now be allowed, one per parcel, attached or detached, must be a minimum of 400 square feet to a maximum of 50% of the primary dwelling or 800 square feet, maximum of two bedrooms, must include one parking space and the owner must get building permits and service connection approvals.