A proposed 155-lot "agrihood" community near Hayden Lake — the largest housing project floated to Kootenai County in at least a decade — has been withdrawn from the hearing process.
It's back to the drawing board for the 95-acre English Point Heights project at the corner of Lancaster and Hayden Lake roads after a citizens group expressed environmental and density concerns and a hearing examiner recommended that county commissioners deny the proposal.
A public hearing before the commissioners Thursday night is now canceled.
"The owners have pulled the application because they want to reconfigure the layout," said engineer Steve Syrcle, who represents sister applicants KayDee Steele and Jeneen Steele Espe.
Syrcle said preliminarily, the new layout will likely include fewer lots, but he doesn't know by how much. He said the new proposal is expected to be presented later this year.
"We'll try to accommodate a different layout that's more suitable for the surrounding area," he said. "We're excited to take a fresher look."
The Hayden Lake Coalition for Responsible Development, a citizens group that opposed the project, remains concerned that runoff from pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and petroleum products in the eventual development will hurt Hayden Lake's water quality and the aquifer that is partially fed by the lake.
"Nobody wants the lake to be a disaster," said Leo Simpson, who lives near the property, is part of the group and has a degree in chemical engineering. In a meeting Monday with The Press editorial board, Simpson described himself as conservative.
Coalition member Jan Wilkins said the group believes English Point Heights is just one example of what it would like see changed with the countywide development application process. She believes more collaboration is needed between all stakeholder agencies on project proposals rather than individual agencies just commenting on their own. There also needs to be stricter development standards countywide, she said.
"Everyone says, 'There's a problem, but it's not our problem,'" she said, referring to what the group believes is finger-pointing.
Of the 95 acres, 20 was proposed to be a farm owned and maintained by the homeowners association. One of the ideas was to have a neighborhood farmers market in which residents could purchase produce from the farm.
The family of the applicants homesteaded on the property — often referred to as "Steele corner" — for more than 100 years.
"Our vision is to encompass family values and a sense of community," Jeneen told The Press earlier.
Syrcle said it's too early to say for sure whether the farm theme will be maintained.
"We still want to do that, but we're not locked in yet," he said. "It all depends on the density we end up with and whether the infrastructure costs balance out to make it a viable development."
Syrcle said he believes the proposal was sound environmentally and public agencies vetted the project.
"There are developments with the same-sized density we were proposing across the street," he said.
Coalition members said they do not oppose development altogether and realize growth is inevitable. They said the property developed into 5-acre lots would be more compatible with the surrounding uses and that would also cause less damage to the lake.
"You can't stop (development) so you have to accommodate it and address it appropriately," coalition member Don Vogt said. "I don't want to be in a constant fight, but something has to be done to channel this in a reasonable way."