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Coolin development heats up

by DANIEL RADFORD
Staff Writer | August 18, 2022 1:00 AM

COOLIN — In a blow to rural and environmental advocates, Bonner County commissioners have decided they will not reconsider Tricore Investment’s minor land division in the Coolin Wetlands.

“We met with our legal counsel and Planning to review any potential reason or manner that might need to be corrected in the MLD in question and found that the process followed the ordinance to the letter,” Commission Chair Dan McDonald wrote in an email Wednesday.

The commissioners addressed the matter in their executive session after the Tuesday business meeting. The commissioners found that a number of the issues raised regarding the MLD were things that the county does not regulate such as sewer, water and wetlands.

“These are all regulated by agencies outside the county and should those agencies refuse to provide approval in their respective regulatory areas, the development would have a difficult time going forward, if at all,” McDonald wrote.

According to Coolin resident Timothy Mahoney’s motion to reconsider, filed on June 29, there were several criticisms of the county's June 21 passage of MLD 0143-21.

The first complaint stated that “Bonner County did not [follow] Open Meeting Law requirements of noticing the meeting agenda 48 hours ahead of a planned meeting. While the meeting was noticed on Friday June 17th for the Tuesday June 21st meeting, Monday June 20th was a federal holiday and should not have been included in the 48 hour required noticing time for public meetings.”

According to Idaho Statute 74-204, 48 hour notice is required for public meetings, however calendar or business hours are not specified.

Secondly, Mahoney alleged that the Bonner County planning director and Planning Department did not approve the application within the 30-day required timeframe.

He referenced an email dated Sept. 17, 2021, obtained through a public records request in which Bonner County Planner Amy Scott is continuing to request documents from the developer’s surveyor for Planning Department review. The application was submitted and stamped received on Aug. 9, 2021.

Thirdly, the parcel is split zoned between recreational and rural 5-acre and the MLD ordinance does not allow for the continuation of split zoned properties. According to Mahoney, “[t]he developer submitted MLD applications in May of 2021 (MLD0078-21, MLD0079-21 & MLD0080-21) and was DENIED by Bonner County because they violated county codes governing MLDs.”

Fourthly, Mahoney stated more review was merited since the developer has two adjoining MLDs. “Two MLDs side by side constitute a short plat land divisions of 5-10 and should be subject to the additional review and oversight of a Short-Plat application process,” Mahoney wrote.

Fifthly, there are currently no known approved hookups to the Coolin sewer system for the proposed lots, and the district currently has a moratorium in place on new development hookups, Mahoney alleged.

Sixthly, Mahoney said that the application had inaccurate statements. Under the services section of the MLD application, Tricore Investments said that sewage disposal will be provided by an “existing community system.”

“This is false – the Coolin Sewer District has NOT approved hookups for these proposed lots and there is currently a moratorium in place on all new hookups to the Coolin sewer system,” Mahoney rebutted.

Furthermore, in the land cover subsection, the applicant describes the area as a “mix of open pastures and timber.”

“This is false – the land division would occur within a known wetland system recognized by the state of Idaho as a Class I wetland system of highest conservation priority. The system is mapped on the federal US Fish and Wildlife National Wetlands Inventory and recognized in several federal and state conservation plans,” Mahoney contested. The MLD had not been reviewed by Bonner County’s floodplain manager, Mahoney added.

Seventhly, the proposed lots and development would be located within a mapped FEMA flood hazard zone. Mahoney was concerned that building in this zone would negatively impact Bonner County’s participation in the National Flood Insurance Program, which could result in higher emergency response costs.

Eighthly, Tricore used a now-closed loophole in the boundary line adjustment process to create what Mahoney called “a major subdivision that was never publicly noticed, reviewed, or approved.”

Mahoney said that on August 5, 2021 “the developer was able to circumvent county code governing subdivisions (11+ divisions of land) and all of the required design standards for fire, water, sewer and other associated with subdivision applications and subdivide a portion of the total 65 acre parcel (the shoreline property) into 26 new shoreline lots.”

And ninthly and lastly, Mahoney stated that the “land division would occur within a known wetland system recognized by the state of Idaho as a Class I wetland system of highest conservation priority.” Mahoney said the MLD would be a violation of Bonner County Code 12-730, which specifies more stringent regulations for development in the wetlands.

“The future ECONOMIC health and prosperity of Bonner County is inextricably linked to the ENVIRONMENTAL health and preservation of the area. Common sense development that preserves natural areas like the shoreline and wetlands found on the south end of Priest Lake is surely a wise decision,” Mahoney concluded.

Now that the commissioners have stood by the MLD applicant, Tricore’s critics may have to take McDonald’s advice and turn to those “agencies outside the county” that also regulate development.

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