We were pleasantly surprised when we heard that, last Thursday, the Kootenai County Commissioners had rejected a proposal to eliminate water quality protections in an ongoing subdivision development above Hayden Lake. The Commissioners voted 3-0 to overturn a hearing examiner decision that would have removed development restrictions on the Falls at Hayden Lake subdivision.
In a hotly contested hearing process in 2008, the 46-lot Falls at Hayden Lake subdivision was approved with a set of conditions intended to protect Hayden Lake and protect the surrounding neighborhoods. One of the restrictions was to limit all site disturbance activities to the period between May 1 and October 15 to avoid runoff problems at the location. Now, in 2011, the developer applied for a “modification” to have the seasonal limit removed.
KEA legal intern Trevor Frank drafted comments, noting that according to the county code, conditions can’t simply be removed unless the applicant provides an explanation “why a condition modification is necessary.” In this instance, the developer did no such thing –the modification was clearly not necessary. Instead the application was essentially intended to overturn a condition the developer didn’t like. This is the second time the developer has come back to the county for reconsideration of parts of the subdivision approval.
During the 2008 hearings, the evidence showed that the soils on the development site were susceptible to runoff and erosion, so the seasonal restriction was imposed in order to mitigate the high risks of runoff into Hayden Lake. In fact, the proposed seasonal limits were actually suggested by the developer in his own stormwater plan.
The Commissioners’ decision Thursday to reject the modification was absolutely correct and sends and important message. First, the Commissioners are not inclined to re-visit prior decisions in a piecemeal way without a genuine showing of necessity. And secondly, the Commissioners seem inclined to uphold reasonable restrictions on development to protect our lakes.