Tiny home proposal back before council

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PRIEST RIVER — A tiny home complex is on the horizon for Priest River, though it could be up to 12 years before it is completed.

City Council members voted on Monday to allow staff to move forward in drafting a decision document for a conditional use permit for the proposed development.

“It is not an approval of the development,” said Bryan Quayle, city planning and zoning director.

Monday’s meeting marked a continuation of the April 15 public hearing for the proposed development. Mark Mazenko, who recently purchased the mobile home park on Gregory Street on the west side of Highway 57, is looking for approval of a conditional use permit with a variance to allow a tiny home community in a mixed-use residential zone. The variance would allow for a minimum home size of 480 square feet, rather than the 1,000 square foot minimum allowed per city ordinance. This is the first step in the process for Mazenko to turn the 2.13-acre parcel, which currently has 20 mobile home lots, into 38 tiny homes.

The proposal has not been without some skepticism, however, particularly with the extended buildout timeline.

“I have been around here too long — I have seen these projects start and not go anywhere,” said Priest River Mayor Jim Martin.

The reason Mazenko said he sees it as an eight- to 12-year project is because he does not want to displace any of the current residents. As they move on over the years, he plans to put four units at a time for each two lots that become empty.

In the meantime, Mazenko asked the city to consider allowing up to 10 recreational vehicles in the park at any given time. Mazenko said the RVs would serve as “placeholders” until two lots at a time are available for buildout. The zoning for the property allows consideration of a conditional use for a mobile home park or an RV park, Martin said, though the city recently passed an occupied RV ordinance that the two RVs currently occupied at the park are in violation of. So although Mazenko said it would be a temporary situation, some council members were not in favor of the idea.

“I don’t want a bunch of RVs sitting up there because he can’t find four spots to build tiny homes,” said Councilwoman Candy Turner. “I just have a problem with it, because I don’t think it should be an RV park. A lot of people travel that road.”

Martin added that if some of the tiny homes are built, and there are “dilapidated” motor homes and trailers there as well, it would not be the most desirable area for prospective home buyers.

“If you are going to go and spend that type of money on a place, you want it in a neighborhood that is kept up,” Martin said.

While no decision was made on the RV issue Monday, council members will have time to provide input on conditions and standards for the tiny home complex as well as the RV proposal before the decision document is presented during the May 20 meeting.

During the meeting, engineer Austin Storhaug also went over plans for stormwater management, snow storage and site maintenance for the proposed development. A conceptual stormwater plan will be required by the city prior to issuing the conditional use permit, and a site-specific plan will be required prior to a building permit. For snow storage, there would be a designated space on the north end for snow, and some of the extra parking spaces could be used as well. Maintenance would be the responsibility of the residents as a community effort. Storhaug said Mazenko has already begun enforcing a set of rules on current tenants.

“That is the intent ... we are cleaning it up, creating a sense of community,” Storhaug said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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