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Luxury homes, marina draw concerns, questions

Staff Writer | September 12, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Proposed construction of luxury housing and a private marina near the mouth of Trestle Creek continues to draw concern, with over 200 Bonner County residents signing up to speak at the Sept. 6 public hearing on a revised plan for the development.

A previously-filed permit for the project was withdrawn by the Army Corps of Engineers last year after a lawsuit was filed by the Idaho Conservation League and the Center for Biological Diversity, and residents say the new permit is no better.

The newest proposal calls for five single-family estates and a private marina with 105 fixed-pier docks. The project would reroute Trestle Creek’s north branch as well as excavate an island and peninsula. To move forward, the developer needs a lakebed encroachment permit from the Idaho Department of Lands — the agency responsible for permitting docks and marinas. The department is required to consider whether this project is in the public’s interest.

At Wednesday’s hearing, which lasted almost four hours, Whiskey Rock Planning and Consulting owner Jeremy Grimm said the excavation of the island shouldn’t cause problems, as the island is allegedly manmade. By eradicating it, he said, the creek will be able to somewhat return to its original route prior to human manipulation.

Additionally, Grimm said that since the property in question is privately owned, the owner should have the right to develop it as they see fit.

“The owner has the vested right,” he said. “This is private property. This is America.”

Grimm also addressed concerns regarding the critical bull trout habitat that rests at the mouth of Trestle Creek. Many Bonner County residents have verbalized their worry that the development will damage bull trout numbers in the lake. However, Grimm said that by rerouting the creek back to its original flow pattern, the development could actually have long-term benefits on the trouts’ habitat.

However, several public commenters disputed that claim, saying the copious amount of people who will frequent Trestle Creek with the addition of 105 more boat slips is sure to cause damage on top of that caused by the construction. The litter, noise and children who will inevitably get in Trestle Creek to play in the water will damage the habitat, commenters said, even if the initial development doesn’t.

While a few public commenters spoke in favor of the development, saying change is inevitable, a majority of the speakers were opposed to the construction.

One public commenter questioned why such a large development is even being proposed if people aren’t even allowed to fish at the mouth of Trestle Creek in order to preserve the bull trout habitat. That logic, he said, made no sense to him.

Many other commenters called the development proposal manipulative, gaslighting, and not in the true public’s interest at all.

“Clearly this project is not for Idahoans,” one woman said.

“The greed that's going on with developers and the uber-rich are for the good of whom?” another woman asked.

“We won't be gaslit by you or the Idaho Club,” a man said, explaining that the development only benefits the tourists who will occupy the homes for a month or two, at most, throughout the year.

A few commenters mentioned Grimm’s comment about “restoring” Trestle Creek to its original path by excavating the man-made island, saying that is not enough to help the land be restored to how it once was.

“If you truly want to restore things to how they were, you should give this land back to the Indians,” one woman stated.

Others agreed with her, saying the land should be given to people who actually care about the area and the wildlife that inhabits it. One woman stated that she spoke for the fish, birds, and other wildlife that inhabit the property and said they are very clearly against the destruction of their home to build houses that will hardly be occupied throughout the year.

One man commented on Grimm’s statement: “This is America.”

“Part of being an American is being good stewards of this land,” a man said.

The Idaho Department of Lands is accepting public comments on this proposed development project until Friday. Those interested in having their voices heard on the matter can send written comments to The department is set to make a decision on the development by the end of the month.

“Change is inevitable,” one commenter said. “But not all change is good change.”