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Camp Bay beach issue remanded to commissioners

by DANIEL RADFORD
Staff Writer | September 27, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A decision on Camp Bay Road access has been remanded to Bonner County commissioners by a district judge on Sept. 20.

M3 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 contention it would benefit the public. The controversial decision prompted a huge public outcry and a Sagle couple filed suit over the decision.

In their legal filings, Fred and Jennifer Arn claim that Camp Bay Road actually ends at the historic highwater mark of Lake Pend Oreille, and ergo, provides for public access to the lake.

The commissioners cited their inability to make a legal determination on the location of the end point of the road in their February vote to deny M3’s petition. That February hearing came after their prior hearing was overruled by District Court and the matter was remanded back to the commission, who then punted to the court, who has now returned the punt back to the commissioners.

The commission unanimously voted in favor of giving the road to M3 in April 2021, claiming the vacation of the nearly 3 acres 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.

Following the Arns’ intervention, that decision was found “arbitrary and capricious” last November by District Judge Cynthia Meyer, who remanded the issue back to the county commissioners.

The latest bout of court proceedings stemmed from the March filing by Arizona-based M3 ID Camp Bay LLC for a judicial review of the Bonner County commissioners’ vote in February to void the vacation of the county road.

On Aug. 8, M3 filed a motion to present additional evidence, or for the matter to be remanded back to the county board of commissioners altogether.

Since the company had altered its proposed application for the road vacation, M3 officials argued that this constituted new evidence. As a result, they contended that that revised application should be shown to the county commissioners, who are the respondent to M3’s petition.

M3’s original proposal offered to put in a new turnaround area for school buses and snow plows at their gated entrance, in exchange for the last half mile of road. In the revised proposal, M3 seeks to offer a footpath alongside the road as well.

According to Idaho Code, for new evidence to be introduced there must be a “showing to the court that such evidence is material” to the issues at hand.

The Arns filed a brief in response, questioning 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.

In this matter, Meyer partially agreed with the Arns, who filed as intervenors in the case. She wrote that the court shares the Arns’ concerns that the evidence was not pertinent to the matter at hand.

Meyer said in the memorandum that the latest 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 would be pertinent and presentable in another county hearing.

Due to this legal gray area, M3’s motion was granted in part and denied in part.

The motion was to either present new evidence to the court or for the matter to return to Bonner County commissioners. The first part was denied by the court. The second part was granted.

Citing Idaho Appellate Rule 13.3a, which permit a temporary remand to an administrative agency, the court found good cause for the remand in order to allow the county another crack at determining the legal terminus for Camp Bay Road, as well as include the new proposal as part of their public interest determination and to provide for judicial efficiency for all parties involved.

The next step in the process will be for the Bonner County commissioners to date, notice, and hold a hearing which, as of yet, has not been scheduled.

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