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Commission OKs changes to marina, housing project

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | April 24, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — An approved development being built at the mouth of Trestle Creek is undergoing changes to its site plan.

The Bonner County Zoning Commission voted Thursday by split decision to approve three changes to the planned unit development on 24.4-acres owned by Valiant Idaho, LLC, and William Haberman.

“A planned unit development is basically the combination of a conditional use permit and a variance,” Planning Director Milton Ollerton told the commission. “When folks apply for a planned unit development, they indicate deviations from the code as part of the planned unit development. And that was some of the frustration from the public with this application, there were several deviations from the code, which was part of the planned unit development. … That’s how this was reviewed and approved. It allowed for deviations from the code for that reason.”

The north lake development features a variety of uses, the most notable of which including five luxury homes, 124 boat-slips, and boat storage facilities.

Bonner County commissioners approved the project on Jan. 15, 2021. Project representative Scott Brown brought three proposed changes to the zoning commission, the most prominent of which sought to combine three 10,000-square-foot boat storage buildings into a single 30,000-square-foot building.

This change implies a reduction in the amount of paved surfaces. Because three buildings were conceptually combined into one, there will now be only one entrance and exit from the structure, therefore implying a reduction in paving.

Another prominent change contained in the modification moves the community drainage field from draining to the north of the property to the south, further away from the mouth of Trestle Creek.

A community drainage field, also referred to as a septic drainage field, is the required amount of space needed to surround an underground septic tank. When materials leave the tank, there needs to be adequate drainage around the tank for ground microbials to manage and eliminate the impurities.

This approved change will move the drainage field an additional 160 feet away from the determined high water mark. While there will still be impacts resulting from the drainage field on the lake, Ollerton said the change will help reduce the impacts.

The third change will move 38 parking spaces away from the northern portion of the property along the railroad tracks. The change does not add any parking spaces, but does move the parking lot closer to the lake. According to information provided by Ollerton, the Planning Department has approved a stormwater management plan which will capture and treat the runoff before it is released into the lake.

Brown said moving the parking spaces will allow easier access for fire and emergency services, as well as making the parking lot more “user friendly.”

At the beginning of the hearing, Ollerton told the commission and scant audience the modification does not address the entirety of the project, nor would the Zoning Commission have the leverage to impact the rest of the project.

Ollerton said that for the project to be revoked, the Planning Department would first need to find that conditions agreed to in the conditional use permit had not been met, hold a public hearing about the conditions, and then hold a later hearing addressing the matter of revocation.

Conditional use permits like the one for the north lake development have a two-year window for conditions to be fulfilled.

Valiant Idaho is required to meet a number of conditions for the project to be approved. Among the agencies placing requirements on the project include the county, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Panhandle Health District, Idaho Fish and Game, and Idaho Department of Lands.

Idaho Fish and Game submitted a comment to the zoning commission to rehear the entire project, but Ollerton said Thursday’s hearing was not the time or place for such a request.

“It's important to note that there are folks who are not happy with this development. They would like to see it not go into place, and IDFG is one of those. They asked that the county reevaluate the entire project,” Ollerton said. “Unfortunately, as I stated, the project has been approved. We’re not here to reevaluate the entire project. We’re here to reevaluate these modifications.

I appreciate their comments. IDFG indicated that these modifications will help mitigate, but not eliminate the effects from this development. In essence, they’re saying that these changes will improve the project.”

One public commenter read the final paragraph from Idaho Fish and Game’s statement into the record. Summarized, the statement notes the project will undergo another consultation to determine what the effects will be on bull trout habitat in Trestle Creek. If the department determines that changes to the site plan need to be made, it will impact permits granted by the department, as well as permits granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Four others spoke in opposition to the entirety of the project including members of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Idaho Conservation League. No one spoke in favor of the modification, or the project as a whole.

“We did file a motion for reconsideration with the county, which was ignored,” said Witney Palmer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “I just wanted to point out that we did try to pursue the avenue of reconsideration.”

“The project, from the county’s perspective, has already been approved with conditions. So you can either approve or deny those three modifications. By denying it, this is going to go back to that original site plan I showed you with three buildings,” Brown said during rebuttal. “I don’t think the project will stall or move any faster or slower in my opinion.”

Commissioners deliberated for five minutes at the end of the three-hour hearing. Commissioner Frank Wakeley was the sole vote against the modification.

The project will now be sent to Bonner County commissioners for final approval.

The housing development and marina project were the subject of a May 2021 lawsuit seeking to overturn its approval, saying it would have a devastating impact on Trestle Creek, one of the most important bull trout spawning streams in the Pacific Northwest.

Bull trout were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999. In 2010, FWS designated 18,795 miles of streams and 488,252 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Nevada as critical habitat. In Washington 754 miles of marine shoreline were also designated.

The suit was filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers and Trestle Creek Investments for approving the development. In addition to the Center for Biological Diversity, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper and Idaho Conservation League also signed onto the notice.

To comment on the project, contact the Bonner County Planning Department, 1500 U.S. 2, Suite 208, Sandpoint; or 208-265-1458 or email planning@bonnercountyid.gov. File number is MOD0001-22.

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Courtesy of LAKE PEND OREILLE WATERKEEPER

A March 2021 aerial photo of the site location of the North Lake Development at the mouth of Trestle Creek.

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(Courtesy illustration)

A modified site plan for the Idaho Club North Lake planned unit development near Trestle Creek which features a variety of uses, the most notable of which including five luxury homes, 124 boat-slips, and boat storage facilities.

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