Skete planned near Rathdrum

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Rendering courtesy of The James Bryant Group This rendering of a monastery of a Russian Orthodox Church on Vashon Island in Washington’s Puget Sound resembles a Russian Orthodox skete, a smaller version of a monastery, that is planned off Highway 53 west of Rathdrum. The property owner is seeking a conditional-use permit through Kootenai County for the use.

RATHDRUM — For years, Elene Schumacher has wanted to donate land for a quiet place of worship for the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Rathdrum-area property owner believes the right scenario has surfaced to make that happen.

Schumacher is seeking a conditional-use permit from Kootenai County for a skete and a private cemetery for Russian Orthodox monks on 22 vacant acres in an agricultural suburban zone between Highway 53 and Hidden Valley Road west of Rathdrum.

Schumacher said a skete, which has domes and bells on top of the chapel, is smaller than a monastery and allows for communal services. She plans to donate the land for the purpose.

"I have been wanting to do this since 2000," she said. "I went to several monasteries and asked if monks would be interested in this property and it just didn't work out. All of a sudden, everything fell into place. There's a monk looking for a place and a person (Schumacher herself) who has land with a little chapel already there. It's all worked out by God's providence."

A hearing examiner will hold a public hearing on the conditional-use permit request at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Kootenai County Administration Building.

The site is in a wooded area just north of Highway 53.

"It's in a quiet and peaceful forested area," Schumacher said.

Schumacher said the property has been in the family since 1930.

According to the application, there would be two to four monks on site initially and not more than six in the first five years.

"The monks would conduct their worship services in a main church building once funds are available for its construction," a project narrative states.

The monks would live in small cabins or eventually a dormitory. Accessory buildings may eventually include a shop for woodworking, honey processing and candle making; a barn for livestock; a guesthouse; and garage.

The small cemetery would be for private use only for the monks. Walking trails for meditation and prayer would likely be constructed throughout the property. A visitor parking area would also be built.

"While the use will likely have small groups of visitors from time to time, it will not be like a conventional church with large attendance on a once- or twice-a-week basis," the narrative states. "It is not open to the general public.

"This use will function very much like a single-family residence. Like a family occasionally has relatives or friends that come to visit, the skete will have two or three guests overnight in the guesthouse once in a while. It is unlikely that there will ever be more than 75 people on site."

Schumacher, who lives next to the property and attends a Greek Orthodox Church in Spokane, said she would also likely attend some of the services held by the Russian Orthodox Church as well. She said about 10 people currently attend services at her mom's home near the site.

Schumacher described the existing small chapel on the property as a "glorified garden shed" with a stained glass window on one side.

"When the weather is nice, services have been held there," she said.

Schumacher said the skete would be a low-impact use of the land, especially compared to the subdivisions on the Rathdrum Prairie.

"I don't see a lot of impact other than the spiritual well-being of some people in the area," she said.

Rand Wichman, a land-use consultant who is representing Schumacher during the public hearing process, added: "We expect this will be a very modest facility for quite a few years."

Another 48 acres next to the site is in a conservation easement, so there will be no development on that property, Schumacher said.

She believes the closest monastery in the region is in Goldendale, Wash., near Yakima, and that's for women.

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