Walter Hadley is the city planner of Kellogg and a Silver Valley native.
Q: We’re outside and there’s a lot of construction noise. Did you ever wonder if you’d see that again?
A: Yeah, be careful what you wish for. But, you know, this community has embraced its growth and its change to more of the recreational emphasis for a number of years now. The community took on its shoulders the burden of building Silver Mountain ski area, the gondola; and the community members are still paying for that, as we stand here. So I think, as a whole, the community is embracing that.
You’re right, we are getting enough emphasis from outside and enough development pressure that eventually, you’ll have people that say, “okay, I like it just a little quieter.”
Q: Has this area changed that much since you went to high school here?
A: I actually grew up here and graduated from high school right when all the heavy duty mining was being shut down. It was a very industrial type area here. The idea that we had was to create a greenbelt and linear park through the center of town. It used to be the center of town as far as industrial traffic; now it’s more the center of town as a link between the uptown and the downtown area.
Q: What have you had to do to get the town ready for change?
A: We spent the last probably 10-12 years basically tweaking our standards, coming up with standards that might work a little better than what we had in the old days. If you drive around old mining communities, they typically didn’t follow a lot of standards. Ours is no different than that. What we’re really working on and what we wound up with is, we have a pretty black and white land use ordinance that allows me to hand it to the developer; they can read it; they come up with the same conclusions that I do as far as the standards. There isn’t any real discussion on that.
"The citizens of this community have embraced their community, not given up on their community, have invested in their community; and now they are actually seeing the benefits of that materialize."
Our processes are quite stream-lined. If you have the appropriate land, appropriate site and appropriate plan in hand, you can walk out that day with the approval to go build a commercial venture. We have worked hard on trying to stream line that and get ready for this development.
Q: After you left for school, what brought you back to the Silver Valley?
A: If you would have told me I would come back to Kellogg, I probably would have said you are crazy, because that really wasn’t in the cards at that point.
But I wound up getting a job in Coeur d’Alene working as a planner and coming over here one day a week at that time. Kootenai county had a contract providing a planner one day a week, and at that time three quarters of the community was boarded up. There wasn’t much going on, and as a planner coming into the community without a stack of cash in my hand, it was a difficult thing to look at and decide what I could do to help it.
I guess one of the things I could do to help it was to not make some of the same mistakes that some of the other communities around our region have, and get ready for growth, and so we spent a lot of time doing that.
I came back here in late 1989, and that’s also the same time when the community built Silver Mountain, bonded itself, and built Silver Mountain and took that burden upon themselves, embracing a change for the community and new development for the community.
Q: So as a planner, what is your number one concern here?
A: The number one concern is now shifting. At first, it was to embrace development, make our standards appropriate not only for the developers coming in so they are equitable and it improves our community.
"Ten years from now my vision for this community is basically that it sustains its livability, we have a diversified economy, and the residents truly say that they enjoy living in this community."
Now we have that in place, and now I’m focusing on making it more livable and sustaining it as a livable community as this development happens; because obviously prices and development and all the things that are going on here right now do have an effect on the livability of our community.
What has happened in our community is that the citizens of this community have embraced their community, not given up on their community, have invested in their community; and now they are actually seeing the benefits of that materialize now, in the fact that other people see the fruit of this community and are willing to take it to the next level.
Q: Is the next level inevitable?
A: I think it’s here. Just from the evidence of different property ownerships, on the interest from all across the country that we do have and the plans and the information that I’m seeing come across my desk on a daily basis, I believe it’s here.
Q: And that’s a good thing?
A: It is a good thing, from the community standpoint. The negative is we will have to sustain that livability character of our community that we currently have. So to balance that, topography wise, we’re pretty narrow, we’re pretty closed in here. We’ll get another 5-10,000 people living in the area, but we did used to have a population of about 7-8,000 people in our community, and now we’re about 3,000, so we do have some room to grow back up to the level that we were once at.
Q: What will keep people here?
A: The reason to draw people here within a 10 year time frame will be it’s livability, if we are successful doing what we’re planning. Diversity, we still need to work hard on, so that we’re not just being a recreational tourist destination. We need to have some light industry; we have to develop that with commercial. We have learned that lesson throughout time, that you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.
Ten years from now my vision for this community is basically that it sustains its livability, we have a diversified economy, and the residents truly say that they enjoy living in this community. I guess that’s our goal.
Q: But most small towns in Idaho are suffering. How will you be different?
A: What we’re doing that is different is we’re sitting in a green belt here that was in a light industrial development area in the middle of our town. This trail was laid out with a spray can in the back of a pick-up before the remediation started and by myself. You know, when I drive down the trail, I do notice a few things I’d like to change. It’s a little late at this point but…
Obviously, every community in Idaho needs water and sewer systems. We’re no different. We’re plugging away on doing projects to try to rectify that problem. I think it’s just having the citizenship, the city councils, the counties all on the same page, and looking at a common goal, whether it be for the entire county or within your jurisdiction. And that’s not necessarily easily achieved at all times, and we do have that here.
Q: Did the stigma of Superfund cause you problems?
A: The stigma initially was probably a negative for our community, but I think it typically is across the country. When you have a Superfund site, everybody will start paying attention and find out what the real issues or problems are.
In our case we do have an institutional controls program, that basically gives some surety to the lending institutions. It gives them the ability to look at it and say, “okay if this development is done in this process, it’s adopted by the city of Kellogg as part of our ordinances.” It’s not just enforced through the Panhandle Health district; it’s actually enforced by the city of Kellogg, also.
They are given some surety that that development is fundable, is fully credible for their lending. That really is what probably has turned the corner and made it available for developers to come into our community without second-guessing whether or not it’s a good investment.
Q: What advice would you give other city planners?
A: What I would probably suggest is that they stay in close contact with their councils in their communities and make sure that the councils and planning commissions and staff are not going in a different direction. That’s the one thing I think we’ve been very successful at here, is keeping in mind what the citizens have embraced, what they would want to see happen and make that happen as best you can.
Q: Twenty years does seem like a long time to wait for a turn-around.
A: There have been a number of issues of why that didn’t materialize earlier, but if you typically look at a lot of areas that are similar to us in background, it typically is about a twenty year process to go through.