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MLD reaffirmed, conditions of approval apply

by DANIEL RADFORD
Staff Writer | August 30, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Neighbors’ appeal of Planning Director Jacob Gabell’s minor land division was rejected Monday at a special hearing with Bonner County commissioners.

Despite concerns about lot size and the availability of urban services, the commissioners voted unanimously to uphold their original approval of the application.

Since Gabell plans to put in a shared well to serve the three 1-acre lots on his land, the county determined this is an “urban service” which means he can subdivide below the 2.5-acre minimum lot size in a suburban zoning district.

Since county code defines urban services as “[p]ublicly or privately maintained water supply and distribution systems,” planning included the provision of these services as a condition of approval. This means they will be required to be put in place before the final “platting” of the parcels.

BCRC 12-821 also includes publicly or privately maintained “sewage collection, treatment and disposal systems (not to include individual septic tanks and drainfield systems or community septic tanks and drainfield systems, unless subject to an approved sewer management agreement)...”

Gabell said he plans to put in individual septic tanks on the lots. This would require the lifting of sanitary restrictions by the Panhandle Health District, which the original application states will be lifted. This is also a condition of approval before the final replatting of the parcel.

One Bonner County resident, Michael Williams, shared his experience with “conditions of approval.” Williams alleged that the development he currently lives on was approved as a minor land division with approval conditions that were not followed. This has resulted in several issues on the property, including septic problems, flooding, and poor water quality, Williams contended

Liz Iha, one of Gabell’s neighbors, also expressed several concerns about the proposal, including the potential for decreased value of rural land, increased traffic on a backcountry road, and adverse effects to the environment – especially due to extensive above and below ground waterways.

Iha said she feels her private property rights had been violated, adding she believes there was not adequate proof her concerns had been considered in the application process.

Several Wood View residents were surprised that they lived in a suburban zone, with many thinking the area was still zoned as rural 5 acres.

Iha also mentioned that the hastiness of the commissioners scheduling of the appeal hearing limited her ability to prepare. Some items asked for in her public records request on Aug. 18 could not be fulfilled before the appeal hearing.

“We’re looking at unanswered emails, we’re looking at unanswered calls, we’re looking at unanswered office visits and we’re looking at loss of due process,” she said.

“$380 is a lot. I’m sorry, that’s a lot for me. That’s a car payment. So for us to have to pull that together in the time we have to pull that together and then not be given $380 worth of … time to prepare … is upsetting.”

Dan McDonald said the county has carefully examined the MLD.

“We gave this thing a ton of extra scrutiny,” he added.

McDonald said that to require a landowner to invest in meeting conditions of approval before approval would be backward. “What we can do is we can approve a file … with the condition that all these conditions are met … in this file he can’t start construction or do anything until those conditions are met.”

“Having him do that in advance is ridiculous,” McDonald added.

With regards to perceived impropriety or conflict of interest, McDonald said it was not an issue since there is no familial or financial relationship between any of the commissioners and Gabell.

“All he has to do is get the wells drilled, the septic approved, get the water system approved, and he’s off to the races.”

Information: To read Gabell’s MLD application search “MLD0059-22” at BonnerCountyID.gov.

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