Council unanimously OKs Pocatello event center

Sep 18th, 2015 | By | Category: Business news, Featured
Pocatello-Chubbuck Auditorium District executive director Raul Cano explains the benefits of a new event center at Thursday's Pocatello City Council meeting.

Pocatello-Chubbuck Auditorium District executive director Raul Cano explains the benefits of a new event center at Thursday’s Pocatello City Council meeting.

By Michael H. O’Donnell

POCATELLO — After two Pocatello Planning and Zoning hearings and a Thursday night hearing in front of the City Council, a new event center near Grace Lutheran Church received the green light.

The new 40,620 square-foot facility with a seating capacity of 1,600 will be built by Grace Lutheran Church off Baldy Drive east of Interstate 15, and it will be leased to the Pocatello-Chubbuck Auditorium District.

The new event center will host athletic tournaments, trade shows and concerts, according to Auditorium District executive director Raul Cano.    A unanimous City Council approved the contract rezone and conditional use permit necessary for the project to move forward. Mayor Brian Blad did direct city staff to work with the residents of nearby Calico Circle to secure “residents-only” parking status for that neighborhood.

Eight people testified in favor of granting the rezone and use permit at Thursday night’s hearing, including former Pocatello Mayor Greg Anderson. Anderson said he was a member of the city’s planning commission 25 years ago when it asked the city for a zoning change in the area where the convention center will be built so development could take place.

The property surrounding the center’s location is home to Grace Lutheran Church and school as well as Applebee’s restaurant and numerous hotels.

“This is a great project,” Cano said. “It’s about business.”

The Pocatello-Chubbuck Auditorium district collects a 5 percent room tax from Pocatello hotels and motels which can be applied to the creation of an events center. Cano said that amounts to about $850,000 annually, and he hopes that grows to more than $1 million with additional people coming to Pocatello to attend events at the new center.

Grace Lutheran is building the center and will be responsible for paying property taxes on it because it is a revenue-generating operation. According to Cano, Grace Lutheran has agreed to pay property taxes for the first five years, unless the bed tax collected by the auditorium district exceeds $1 million per year. Once the $1 million mark is reached, the district would cover the church’s property tax bill for the center.

“I’m just glad to see this event center finally getting close to happening,” said Pocatello resident Mike Seibert during Thursday’s hearing.

Pocatello resident Sam Nettinga said he’s been involved with the event center project since the district was first formed under authority of state legislation in 1998.

“It’s time to move,” Nettinga said.

Grace Lutheran representative Charles Buestatte told the council the project is something that will benefit the entire community.

“We’re beyond excited about this opportunity,” Buestatte said.

Three residents of Calico Circle did testify in opposition to the new center, citing concerns about increased traffic, inadequate parking and potential safety issues for area homeowners.

“There will be a lot of traffic in the neighborhood,” said Calico resident Gayle Batterton. “It is not a good place.”

During a question and answer period held by council members after the official hearing, city planning manager Matt Lewis said the existing zoning in the area where the event center will be built does allow highdensity housing without council approval. The 8.69 acres where the facility will be built could accommodate up to 250 apartment units, according to Lewis.

“That would cause a much greater impact traffic-wise,” Lewis said.

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