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'Industrial' draws concern of residents

by Western News
| May 26, 2009 12:00 AM

The majority of a standing room only crowd at last week’s Libby City Council meeting objected to the council’s plan for an industrial area next to Riverfront Park.

Their disapproval, however, may have had more to do with semantics.

“What got people upset was the word ‘industrial,’” Councilmember Ron Carter said. “We got the title from a city map. That area has been called that for who knows how long.”

Riverfront Park is part of the old export plant, an area that the Environmental Protection Agency is putting through the Superfund process to reach a Record of Decision. The council is working with the agency to ensure a cleanup of the city-owned property that will match its future use.

When mapping out the potential layout of the property, Carter labeled the area south of Riverfront Park lining the railroad tracks as “industrial.” Carter said that “commercial” or “retail” would have been better terms because a bait shop or restaurant is more in line with the council’s future plans for the site.

“Everyone hears the word industrial and you have 50 people and 50 definitions,” Councilmember Peggy Williams said. “At this point I can’t define what it’s going to be, but I don’t think its going to be some big, noisy, heavy thing.”

The council has no immediate plans for any business in the area, but is trying to create a rough sketch of its future use to aid the EPA’s cleanup design.

Five area residents spoke against the plan at last Monday’s meeting before Mayor Doug Roll cut discussion short to move on in the agenda. They expressed that an “industrial” area would be an eye sore, and that it would be in competition with the Kootenai River Industrial District.

Libby resident Diana Martin, who attended the meeting, agrees.

“You see it looks rundown and it’s industrial and there’s big trucks coming through town,” she said. “It’s ugly and it doesn’t have any appeal to someone who’s considering moving here.”

Attendees seemed perceptive to plans for a tourist-friendly commercial space, according to Roll. A canoe rental shop and skateboard park were mentioned.

Carter emphasized that the plans for the park are fluid and public comment is welcome.

“That map will keep changing with new ideas and new engineering designs,” Carter said. “We want to encourage people to keep coming to the meetings and giving us their ideas.”