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Hearing scheduled for revised Camp Bay proposal

Staff Writer | November 3, 2022 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — A hearing has been scheduled to determine how a proposed footpath to allow access to Camp Bay could impact the public interest in a proposed vacation of Camp Bay Road.

M3’s latest proposal would reroute non-resident foot traffic to the southeast of the current beach.

M3, who is developing Camp Bay, first petitioned the county in 2021 to vacate the last half mile of the road for a private subdivision. County commissioners initially approved the application, agreeing with the company’s claim it would benefit the public.

The court sent the matter back to the commissioners, but the scope of the hearing was limited to just the public interest impact of the path for the revised plan.

“This hearing, which has been ordered by the Bonner County District Court, will focus solely on the proposed walking path and its impact on the public interest in the proposed vacation,” the notice states.

The hearing will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday, November 22 at the Bonner County Administration Building, on 1500 U.S. 2, in Sandpoint.

The commission unanimously voted in favor of giving the road to M3 in April 2021. The commissioners said the vacation met the “public interest” standard for giving away public property, since the county would no longer need to plow half a mile of dirt road and since M3 promised to put in a turn-around location.

The controversial decision prompted huge public outcry and prompted a Sagle couple, Fred and Jennifer Arn, to file suit over the decision.

That decision was vacated by Judge Cynthia Meyer in November 2021, ruling the county’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and remanding the decision back to the commissioners.

In February, commissioners denied the Arizona developer’s application – and kicked the ball back to the court. In doing so, commissioners said they were unable to determine if Camp Bay Road does, in fact, provide legal access to Lake Pend Oreille.

The court hearing, originally set for early July, was delayed for a month in the hopes negotiations between the Arns and Bill Brownlee of M3 would result in a settlement. However, talks fell through and a hearing was held in August..

At the August court hearing, M3 officials introduced a revised proposal which included a footpath to a separate area of the beach. While this does not change the ongoing efforts to determine the terminus point of the road, the inclusion of the footpath could affect the public interest debate.

In her ruling, Meyer said the proposed footpath “is not additional evidence/information that is material to determine the issue presented” before the court.

Since the court was tasked with determining if Camp Bay Road provides public access to the lake, M3’s revised development plans were not pertinent evidence to the court.

However, since the proposed footpath may influence the “public interest” determination by the county, the evidence could be presented to the county.

In a brief filed by the Arns, the couple questioned whether the evidence was relevant to the court proceedings. They also outlined several conditions for the remand, namely, that the public notice of the hearing must specify the scope of the hearing. Meyer agreed.

In an email to supporters last week, Fred Arn said M3’s proposed footpath “appears to be an admission [by Brownlee] that he can’t win the legal battle.”

Arn also took aim at the “public interest” implications of M3’s latest offer.

“The proposed lake access point would not have the same expansive view of the existing one, it would lack vehicle access and it will be next to a community dock and near the outlet of a small creek,” he said.

“Is exchanging nearly 3 acres of public land and 50 feet of waterfront (that’s now accessible by car) for a dirt walking path to another location, controlled by a private entity, an equal trade?”