Idaho Club utilities to remain on amid dispute

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SANDPOINT — First District Judge Barbara Buchanan sustained an order Wednesday that ensures residents of the Idaho Club will not be denied water and septic services.

“I think we can all agree that this cannot happen and will not happen,” Buchanan said of residents being denied access to the fundamental utilities.

The golf resort’s original developer, Dick Villelli, and its current owner, Valiant Idaho LLC, have a week to develop proposed court orders that seek to resolve their legal dispute over the development’s access to a domestic water supply.

Valiant purchased the club, which was initially known as Hidden Lakes Golf Resort, through foreclosure proceedings in November 2016. The purchase included more than a 150 undeveloped parcels, in addition to two parcels containing the club’s water and septic systems. Valiant, however, does not own the source wells which sustain the systems.

Valiant contends more than 30 homes in the development were cut off from water and septic services on April 12. Buchanan issued a temporary restraining order the following day which prohibits the interruption of water and septic services.

Counsel for VP argued on Wednesday that it was acting in compliance with a March court order which evicted the company from parcels containing utility infrastructure and denied them access to operate the system. Weeks further argued that the restraining order forces VP to provide water to the 154 undeveloped lots owned by Valiant without any agreement or compensation.

Valiant’s counsel, Coeur d’Alene attorney Susan Weeks, sought permission under Idaho’s court rules to restore the company’s access to the utility parcels.

“We’re asking the court under that rule to grant them a stay that meets the concerns of the public health and safety and doesn’t hold VP to be a captive utility provider,” Weeks said.

Valiant’s counsel, Boise attorney Richard Stacey, disputed the notion that VP shut off the water in observance of court orders.

“They didn’t turn it off because they felt you were making them. They turned off the water because they wanted to make some sort of power play,” said Stacey.

Weeks said Villelli’s company, VP Inc., has to separate its infrastructure from the infrastructure purportedly owned by Valiant, which results in a system that no longer functions as a whole. Moreover, VP is claiming ownership of a transmission line beneath Highway 200, which will isolate lots owned by Valiant from utility services.

Stacey countered that court orders do not require the systems to be disentangled.

Weeks said the water dispute is also prelude to a dispute over septic services.

“Once it starts getting valved off you’re going to have an even bigger sanitary public health safety issue,” she said.

Buchanan ultimately continued the restraining order so residents within the development don’t lose access to utilities while the legal dispute plays out.

“I am very concerned that they are being adversely affected by what’s happened and I think both sides recognize that. We won’t have a situation where people don’t have septic service or don’t have water service,” she said. “That absolutely will not happen.”

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and find him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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