Court upholds county approval of batch plant

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(Courtesy photo) This aerial image captured by a drone shows the Sagle gravel pit where an asphalt batch plant is planned.

SAGLE — A 1st District Court judge is affirming Bonner County’s approval of a hotly contested asphalt batch plant next to U.S. Highway 95.

Judge Jeff Brudie issued the ruling on Feb. 5, nearly two months after he heard arguments on a petition for judicial review of the county’s approval of Interstate Concrete & Asphalt’s plan to relocate its asphalt batch plant in Sandpoint to Frank Linscott’s existing gravel pit north of Gun Club Road. The site has been used for temporary batch plant operations, much to the consternation of neighboring landowners who argue the plant diminishes property values, in addition to jeopardizing air and water quality.

Linscott and Interstate were granted a conditional land use permit for permanent operations from the Bonner County Planning & Zoning Commission in 2018, despite vociferous objections from neighbors. Landowners appealed to Bonner County commissioners, but the board upheld the issuance of the conditional use permit in 2019, prompting Citizens Against Linscott/Interstate Asphalt to seek redress in district court.

Under the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act, an agency decision can be set aside if it violates state law or constitution,

Citizens raised several issues on judicial review. They argued that a local land use code amendment in 2018, which allows asphalt plants in agricultural and residential zones if they are paired with an active gravel pit, was unlawfully adopted. The group further argued that the county commission’s decision did not comply with the ordinance and the gravel pit’s noncompliance with other local codes prevented the permit’s issuance.

Citizens alleged the gravel pit had operated in violation of county ordinances, although Brudie held that such determinations have never been made, nor has the pit been the subject of an enforcement action.

“On review this court is constrained to review the decision of the board on clearly defined criteria. The court is not empowered to render a legal conclusion on a property’s compliance with county ordinances when the issue has not been properly raised below,” Brudie said in the 11-page opinion.

Moreover, Brudie ruled that the court will defer to the board’s interpretation and application of its own zoning ordinances unless they are capricious, arbitrary or discriminatory.

“In reviewing the board’s decision with such deference, the court is unable to find error,” Brudie wrote.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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