The inevitable lawsuit has been filed in Kootenai County District Court regarding the absurd annexation of the Powderhorn peninsula by the tiny city of Harrison. Recall that in September, Harrison, a city of 300 or so residents, moved to annex land across the open waters of the Coeur d’Alene River for a massive gated-community golf course development with more than 1300 homes. Two citizens groups filed suit last week asking a Court to review the complicated annexation.
The lawsuit asks the court to review a number of irregularities in the annexation, but the most interesting claim is perhaps the most obvious. Under the “Category A” annexation process invoked by the City, the properties to be annexed must be “contiguous” to the city limits. According to the lawsuit however, that’s simply not the case.
Setting aside the absurdity of the annexation of across unbridged open water, there are complicated jurisdictional concerns. In 1983, over the objections of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the City of Harrison extended its jurisdiction one quarter-mile across the surface of Lake Coeur d’Alene. According to the City, the Powderhorn property is contiguous when this quarter-mile extension is stretched across the water. However, the lawsuit puts is plainly:
The city limits of the City of Harrison, even if including the 1/4 mile extension of surface water jurisdiction, is 3826 feet east of the nearest Powderhorn Ranch, LLC property, and this intervening 3826 feet is entirely underwater.
In addition to the contiguity problem, the lawsuit calls into question Harrison’s interpretation of an agreement with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe which was supposed to settle jurisdictional questions over the waterways. According to the lawsuit, the agreement’s terms do not provide the necessary consent by the Tribe to annexation over the lake bed and river bed, which is in the Tribe’s ownership.
A number of other issues are also raised in the Court filing, including Harrison’s violations of open meetings rules, conflict of interest issues during the annexation deliberations, and the City’s failure to abide by its legal agreement with Kootenai County regarding annexations beyond its Area of City Impact (ACI).
The issues are highly technical and legally complicated, to be sure. What isn’t complicated, though, is the ridiculousness of the proposed Powderhorn development. It is an inappropriately large concentration of development in a rural area, with its only access to a roadway that can’t handle the traffic, and on a dry peninsula without adequate water resources for the intensity of development proposed. It is the dumbest of dumb growth planned for North Idaho. We hope the Court will recognize the development proposal’s technical overreach, and strike down the annexation. Maybe then the City will have another chance to reconsider its economic and municipal suicide through this preposterous annexation.