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Board taking up controversial rezone today

by KEITH KINNAIRD
News editor | April 14, 2021 1:00 AM

VAY — Bonner County commissioners are scheduled to rule today on a contentious proposal to amend Bonner County's comprehensive land use plan and zoning designation on a 160-acre parcel in the Hoodoo Valley.

The commission is slated to take up the matter during a 1:30 p.m. public hearing at the Bonner County Administration Building.

Daum Construction of Hayden is seeking a comp plan amendment to downsize lot-size minimums from 10- to 20-acres to five- to 10-acre minimums, which would rezone the parcel from an agricultural/forestry zoning designation to a rural residential designation.

County commissioners originally took up the application last month, but continued its review of the application to consider the possibility of rezoning the north half of the property rural with 10-acre minimums and rezoning the south half to five-acre minimums.

Commission Chairman Dan McDonald said the public comment will be limited to splitting up the rezone.

The parcel is located on the east side of Spirit Lake Cutoff Road, north of Chip N Dale Lane. The rectangular parcel vacant and forested with soil types classified as prime agricultural ground, according to a Bonner County Planning Department staff report.

However, the site is coveted for development of rural homesites.

"Trends currently promote more variety for lot sales. Steady growth requires development for growing pains," Tiffanie Espe, the project's representative, said in an application for the project.

Project proponents further contend that the development would be harmonious with surrounding land uses.

But area landowners are not buying what the developers are selling as evidenced by a litany concerns and criticisms that have been raised since the proposal surfaced. They point out that they moved to the area specifically to escape overcrowded areas and the problems they pose for traffic, noise and pollution.

Opponents, according to public comments gathered by the planning department, also argue the proposal will chip away at a dwindling amount of agricultural lands, overwhelm existing infrastructure and invite a criminal element to the quiet rural neighborhood.

There is also concern that the additional septic systems pose a threat to Hoodoo Creek, the underlying aquifer and water wells in the area.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality said it has no comment on the project's environmental impacts, planning records indicate. The Panhandle Health District, meanwhile, noted that the application states there will be individual septic systems for each lot, but has no record of septic approval for the property and is recommending the developers contact the agency to determine septic feasibility at the site.

Planning department records further indicate the Spirit Lake Fire District said the project would need two points of ingress and egress and is recommending a traffic study be conducted on the cutoff road due to the potential for increased housing density.

Fire Chief John DeBernardi said there has been a 10-percent increase in injury and non-injury crashes.

"Due to the current traffic load, our emergency response has been hampered in those areas," DeBernardi said in an email to the county.

Espe, the project's representative, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Bonner County resident Maureen Paterson said project opponents have collected more than 550 petition signatures and urged the board to deny Daum's requests. She said they are in conflict with public interests and welfare in the valley and a threat to property values.

"The value of surrounding property can be permanently adversely altered and diminished," she said.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and followed on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.