Thursday, August 18, 2022

Failure to know law no excuse to approve cabins

| July 7, 2022 1:00 AM

In June, the P&Z Commission considered a conditional use permit from Struggle Bear LLC to build six cabins (three each of 400 square feet and 144 square feet) on Earl Lane Road in Bonners Ferry. Unable to decide, they deferred decision to the county commissioners.

This is unique. The application seeks six dwellings, either residential structures or recreational cabins. If the former, there is a definition problem. These are not “primary residences” under the zoning ordinance: they lack lavatories, kitchens, and are not the “highest use” of the parcel. Also, P&Z’s last six CUPs for multi-structure residences involved a second family residence, not another five for transient campers.

If recreational cabins, other problems exist. Because applicant built first, before talking to P&Z, these cabins now sit in a suburban residential neighborhood served by an unmaintained dirt road. The neighbors are rightly worried about noise, traffic and road wear. And because the applicant has publicized this campground to his many online followers, their worries are compounded.

The commissioners have a problem. Granting this permit is bad precedent no matter how it’s defined. Approving six “multi-structure residences” would far exceed the scope of previous permits. And multi-cabin recreational campgrounds should not be permitted in residential neighborhoods. The residents were here first and are entitled to zoning and comp plan protection.

The commission should not be pushed into approval because the applicant didn’t know zoning applied to him. Any failed expectations or lost investment are his own fault. Far better to stop this now.


Bonners Ferry

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