Clagstone gets endorsement

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SANDPOINT - The Bonner County Planning and Zoning Commission is recommending approval of Clagstone Meadows, the largest planned unit development in the county's history.

The recommendation cleared the board on a unanimous vote late Tuesday night. The planning commission spent three evenings deliberating the project.

The development heads to the county commission, which has the final say on the project.

Planning Director Clare Marley anticipates the hearing process will resemble the process utilized by the planning commission, which spread the hearing out over several days to provide time for ample presentation, testimony and deliberation.

"We don't know yet how many days that might take, but we're setting it so the board has an extended period to review it and it's going to be the only item on the agenda so they have plenty of time for it," she said.

A hearing date is pending, although Marley said the matter is tracking toward a date in late September or early October.

Clagstone Meadows LLC proposes 1,200 residential units of clustered housing on 12,442 acres of land north of Kelso Lake. It's the largest development ever contemplated in terms of land coverage, although Schweitzer Mountain remains the most densely developed project in the county.

The scope of the proposal, which includes two private 18-hole golf courses and a network of private trails, has drawn objections from neighboring landowners over impacts to the rural flavor of the area, in addition to concerns over wildlife habitat, water quality and traffic.

The project also jangled the nerves of the Idaho Conservation League, which urged the county to hold off on any decisions until more is learned about the development proposal.

The developers emphasized that the 4,954 acres of open space and another 5,728 acres of managed timberland open space. They also pledged to form a technical advisory committee composed of representatives from regulatory agencies to develop a wildlife and natural resources management plan.

The planning commission spent considerable time fine-tuning conditions of approval meant to address or mitigate undesired impacts from the development. The board used a matrix to identify issues and potential solutions, resulting in a digital worksheet that swelled to nearly 40 pages and 18,000 words.

The project would be subject to a pending development agreement with the county to ensure that the developers pay an equitable share of improvements to affected state and county roadways, in addition to dust abatement and vegetative buffers during construction.

Despite the growing list of conditions of approval, Commissioner Margaret Hall expressed unease with the traffic impacts and the developers plans to impound water to enlarge Beaver and Lambertson lakes, which could have downstream impacts.

"Unfortunately those are still my concerns and I'm not sure how there's any way to address them," Hall said during Tuesday's hearing.

Commission Chairman Wayne Benner reminded Hall that each phase of the development will be scrutinized by the board as the project progresses.

"That is a safeguard. It comes back before the planning commission," said Benner.

Commissioner Dan Sheckler added that there will undoubtedly be traffic impacts, but the project will also speed improvements to adjoining state and local roads.

"It's always a difficult balancing act that we do, but I think there's a bit of give and take here," Sheckler said.

All told, the Planning Commission spent about 27 hours reviewing and deliberating the project, according to Marley.

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