COEUR d’ALENE — Kootenai County commissioners are considering a new land use category that creates a new classification for resort lodges, conference centers and guest ranches.
During a Dec. 10 public hearing on the issue, the commissioners received comments from 58 citizens, and 44 opposed the changes.
Commissioner David Stewart said while there were a lot of comments made, many of those came from people outside Kootenai County.
“There were quite a few people from Washington testifying,” he said, adding many of them were also the same people who come out to oppose everything. “But there were some legitimate concerns.”
Stewart said the county’s community development director, David Callahan, supports the concept of a new classification, but there are some issues that arose.
Stewart said if a property owner wants to build a resort lodge, conference center or guest ranch, the project must now go through the conditional use permit process, which has its pros and cons.
He said while a conditional use permit gives the county more control over conditions it wants a landowner to follow, banks won’t lend money to businesses that are operating under the permits.
If the county adopts a new land use category, anyone who qualifies for the permit would have the right to obtain one without any further conditions, but the banks will lend to businesses operating under that permit.
The types of facilities the new land use category covers are commonly used for weddings. Stewart said he and others are concerned about placing a wedding facility in the same land use category as resort lodges, conference centers and guest ranches.
“The way the proposal is currently written, I don't think it could pass,” Stewart said. “I think the wedding language will be removed. We need to deal with weddings on their own.”
Stewart said if they create a new category, they will have to have a mechanism to deal with potential nuisances in rural and residential zones.
Stewart said there are several people already engaged in this type of business activity in Kootenai County.
“They brought up several incidents where people are already doing this stuff,” Stewart said. "I think Callahan wants to clean these up."
Stewart said those businesses could be grandfathered in and their permits can be brought into compliance.
“There needs to be more work done on this thing before it is brought back before us,” Stewart said. “I think David will make those changes before it is brought forward again.”
Stewart said the hearing has been continued to Jan. 14, when commissioners will continue to deliberate on the proposal. The public testimony phase of the hearing has been completed, but the deliberations will occur in a public meeting.