COOLIN — The owner of a 400-acre wildlife refuge is taking Bonner County to court over the incremental widening part of Blue Diamond Road, 1st District Court records show.
Counsel for Loel Fenwick contends the county broadened the width of the road leading to the Blue Diamond Marina & Resort despite lacking the right of way to do so, according to a civil complaint filed in 1st District Court on Sept. 24.
Fenwick established the Tanglefoot Wildlife Refuge in 1988 for the enjoyment of his family and the general public. At the time of the purchase, Steamboat Bay Road bisected the property.
Blue Diamond Road, then a 10-foot wide single-track route, branched north to access the marina on the western edge of Priest Lake’s Cavanaugh Bay, court documents said. The road was used seasonally and carried approximately 10 vehicle trips per week.
In 1994, Fenwick spent $10,000 to construct Tanglefoot Trail and entered into an agreement which saw the county vacate the southern half of Steamboat Bay Road, but left the north half open to preserve access to the marina.
However, Blue Diamond Road is subject to a 1966 resolution in wherein the county exchanged public right of way east of the marina in exchange for new public right of way of comparable dimensions, according to the complaint. Moreover, the resolution permanently hemmed in the road’s width.
“The resolution did not grant the county any additional land that would allow the county to increase its width,” Fenwick’s counsel, Coeur d’Alene attorney Arthur Macomber, said in the complaint.
The marina was restored in the mid-1990s and a conditional use permit and zone change were obtained for the upgraded facility. The county, however, sidestepped a requirement that Blue Diamond Road be brought up to county road design and fire access standards, the suit argues.
In 2016, the county began illegally and incrementally widening the road despite the 1966 resolution and Fenwick’s 1994 agreement.
“The illegally-widened access road brings more traffic through the center of Tanglefoot Wildlife Refuge and brings noise and dust to plaintiff’s residence and facilities, negating plaintiff’s previous expenditures of building a newer road to direct traffic around the property,” Macomber said in the 20-page complaint.
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