SANDPOINT — Bonner County officials have developed a short-term strategy for improving safety on a damaged segment of Sherwood Beach Road, but contend the homeowner who inflicted the damage should be on the hook for a long-term solution.
Homeowners at 1096 Sherwood Beach Road earlier this year cut into the right of way while developing access to their home.
“They actually cut into the travel lane with their approach during construction,” Road & Bridge Director Gordon Bates told commissioners last month.
The encroachment effectively narrowed the forest road on a blind curve with an exposure to a steep embankment leading to the lake.
“If somebody goes off that road, it’s not going to be serious. It’s going to be deadly. It is a virtual cliff,” landowner Bill Papesh told commissioners.
Bates suggested erecting signs warning motorists that the road narrows and installing roadway delineators, something the county could do relatively quickly without too much cost.
But a long-term fix is expected to be complicated and costly.
The American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials’ design manual indicates a barrier would be justified due to physical conditions at the site, but the manual also indicates that it would not justified because the road has average daily traffic of less than 400 vehicles, Bates said.
Jersey barriers could be installed, but they would also narrow the road. Commissioners Cornel Rasor and Lewie Rich said the structures could also impart a false sense of security.
“They do move,” Rich said of Jersey barriers.
Bates added that motorists trying to avoid striking the barriers could end hitting vehicles in the opposing lane of traffic.
“Putting a barrier in by itself could lead to more accidents, although the severity — hopefully — would be less,” said Bates.
Bates told commissioners that a professionally engineered solution — a retaining wall or perhaps guardrail — would likely have to be developed.
“We don’t have the money right now so that’s not an option,” said Commissioner Mike Nielsen, who feels the homeowners should be held responsible for the cost of a long-term solution.
Bates said the homeowners, Julie and Thomas Heiskell, are working with professional engineers to develop a fix.
Meanwhile, Bonner County Planning Department staff conducted a site visit last fall and determined that the amount of disturbed area and the height of retaining walls appeared to exceed what was originally indicated in plans and a building location permit.
A carport appears to violate a 25-foot front yard setback and a shoreline buffer area was disturbed, according to county records.
The homeowners blamed the discrepancies on the topography of the site and a former contractor who expanded the scope of work without their knowledge or consent, planning department documents say.