COEUR d'ALENE - Building a multi-family home in the Fort Grounds neighborhood just got a little tougher.
The Fort Grounds Homeowners Association petitioned the Coeur d'Alene City Council Tuesday night to lower one of the thresholds for property owners in R-12 and R-8 residential zones who want to overlay portions of their neighborhood with special use restrictions.
Members of the homeowners association in the Fort Grounds tried earlier this year to secure enough signatures to prevent a condominium project in their historic single-family home neighborhood.
Currently, multi-family homes are allowed in the Fort Grounds area because it is zoned R-12, explained Warren Wilson, deputy city attorney.
When the homeowners association wanted to prevent multi-family housing, they had an option to petition the city to re-zone the area, or to petition the city for a special use overlay of the existing zoning in the area.
According to Wilsonthe neighborhood couldn't be rezoned for single-family homes because many of the lot sizes in the Fort Grounds area did not meet the requirements for the R-3 zone, which only allows single-family homes.
That left the Fort Grounds neighborhood with only one option - with two thresholds - to make multi-family housing a special use in the neighborhood.
The first threshold was to collect signatures from 66 percent of the property owners. They did that with 91 owners signing the petition and 10 property owners refusing to sign.
The second threshold was more difficult because of the small lots in the historic neighborhood. In order to qualify, the property owners who signed the petition had to own 75 percent of the "area" the zoning restriction applies to.
"We were four-hundredths of an acre short of 75 percent with 91 signatures," said Marlo Faulkner, who presented the issue to the council. "What this means, when you are looking at the 75 percent, is that you have 10 property owners toward the lake who control as many votes as all the rest of the property owners who live in the Fort Grounds."
Faulkner joined a handful of her neighbors in asking the council to lower that 75 percent threshold to 66 percent, saying it would still be a high threshold to meet, but not insurmountable for small neighborhoods like the Fort Grounds.
After considerable discussion of the complicated issues related to the request, Councilman Mike Kennedy made the motion to approve it.
"I have advocated for a long time, on matters totally unrelated to this, that we not have a tyranny of the minority in some of our voting," he said, adding that we have too many "absurdly high" thresholds for things like local option taxing, and school levies.
"I can go on through the list. Idaho is particularly difficult for someone to get their own wishes made," he said. "This one makes sense to me in the same spirit even though it is not related to those two issues."
He said the two thresholds make it an unfair playing field for neighbors who want to protect their neighborhoods. Kennedy wanted to level that playing field, he said.
"This does that," Kennedy added. "Without commenting on the merits of any particular property in the Fort Grounds, this is a fairness issue, and it's pretty clear it's a no-brainer."
Nobody spoke in opposition to the request Tuesday night, and the council voted unanimously to lower the 75 percent of land threshold to 66 percent.
The Fort Grounds Homeowner's Association can now go before the City Planning and Zoning Commission to request the special-use overlay zone in their neighborhood.
If the association is successful, property owners in the affected areas of the Fort Grounds will be required to obtain a special-use permit from the city to build anything other than a single-family home in the neighborhood.
In other business, the council voted to marginally increase a number of permit fees, including residential garbage fees, which will increase 90 cents a month.