We don’t have the wherewithal to comment on every last development proposal in Kootenai County. It’s a complicated process — talking to neighbors, researching the proposals, drafting comments and attending the dreadful hearings. Obviously, some projects have more environmental impact than others. And many projects are in compliance with the law and well within the rights of the particular property owners. And there are some projects we actually support. So, usually, we try to focus our limited resources on projects with major impacts and are beyond what normally would be allowed under current zoning and the current comprehensive plan.
Sometimes, though, a seemingly small proposal with a tiny environmental impact can set a horrendous precedent, and we recently came across one of those projects, which comes up for a hearing later this week.
A developer on Hayden Lake is proposing a “variance” to the County’s site disturbance ordinance to construct a walkway and landing in the 25-foot shoreline buffer zone. But when we looked at the County ordinance (pdf here), there’s no such thing as a site disturbance variance.
Now, the County does have a variance procedure (Sections 9-23-2 and 9-23-3 here) for the zoning and building codes, as required by state law. And maybe the County is supposed to have a variance procedure for the site disturbance ordinance, but it just forgot to write one into the law. But at the moment, there’s simply no such thing. As for the upcoming hearing, there are therefore no procedures to follow, and there are no standards a citizen can address in their comments.
This may be the ultimate test in how much the County is willing to bend over backwards for development interests.