SANDPOINT — Bonner County commissioners approved a 39-lot planned unit development adjacent to the city of Kootenai on Wednesday.
The approval of the Providence Park housing project cleared the board on a unanimous vote, but not without some reservations from one commissioner.
The majority of the testimony during the public hearing was in opposition to the development proposal. Ten people were opposed the project during the hearing and three were neutral.
Opponents contended the development’s traffic would overwhelm Providence Road and argued it is incompatible with surrounding neighborhoods, some of which are composed of 5-acre lots.
“Our way of living and our property values are going to go down,” said Cheri McCrum.
Lots sizes on the 10-acre project site would range from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet.
The development also lacks sidewalks or connectivity with the western outskirts of Kootenai.
Kootenai Mayor Mike Keough said the lack of sidewalks was particularly troubling because the project is billed as affordable housing, which will attract families with children.
“I have a huge concern for the safety of the kids,” said Keough.
Keough also advised the commission that the sitting City Council would never agree to annex the development due to the project’s design standards.
Jeff Bond and John Gillham began developing the project in 2006, when a former land-use code was in force.
Since then, the project underwent a series of revisions involving stormwater management, layout and connectivity with the city of Kootenai.
In the meantime, a new land-use code took effect. The new code requires pedestrian facilities and connectivity with such projects, but the county was required to judge the proposal under the old code since that’s what was in place when the application was filed.
Commission Chairman Cornel Rasor said he flatly opposed retroactive application of any law or code.
Bond couldn’t help but notice that the city of Kootenai has some of the same shortcomings that Providence Park was accused of having.
“There aren’t any sidewalks in Kootenai either,” said Bond.
Bond added that they dedicated a 30-foot strip of ground on the west side of the development to provide safe passage for pedestrians, but were subsequently told they could no longer use that strip for the project. Moreover, plans were in the works to have one of the development’s roads tie into Seven Sisters Drive, but the city objected, which prompted the creation of a second access onto Providence Road, Bond said.
Commissioner Mike Nielsen said he sympathized with the concerns of neighboring landowners and personally felt that the density was too high. However, the commission had no choice but to consider the project against the former code.
“We have to follow the law,” he said.
Nielsen moved to approve the project and Commissioner Lewie Rich seconded the motion.
Kootenai City Clerk Mary Luzmoor accused Rich of making favorable remarks about the development during a Bonner County Area Transportation Team meeting in October and insisted that he recuse himself from deliberations.
Rich denied making such comments and said fellow BCATT have no recollection of him making the remarks.