Kootenai County Community Development

Kootenai County Community Development has the role of collecting input from developers, regulatory agencies and the general public in order to make recommendations on planning issues for the County Hearing Examiner and the Board of County Commissioners.

In July 2020, Community Development produced a report recommending approval for the Bayshore Estates Subdivision, Application No. MSP19-0006. It was signed by Hearing Examiner Joan Woodard on July 13.

Brazenly tilted to the advantage of the developer, the report reveals the extent to which public comment influences final Kootenai County planning decisions. On page ten, planners state that during the public comment period Community Development received “an overwhelming amount of comments in opposition” to the subdivision proposal. “In summary, the opposition raised concerns with regard to additional traffic, water supply capacity concerns, high density of the proposed lots/homes and associated septic drain fields, connection of proposed roads to the existing neighborhood, contamination of the existing water district wells, potential degradation of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer and Spokane River recharge area and lack of open space. Staff acknowledges these concerns; however, no factual or legal basis has been presented to support these comments.”

The report also ignores a severe seasonal traffic congestion problem in the Greensferry/Riverview area that would be further exacerbated by an additional 539 Bayshore Estates daily vehicle trips routed through a dangerous intersection with poor visibility. The report approves the ingress and egress of Bayshore Estates vehicles through narrow, poorly-maintained roads of an existing subdivision where residents densely park and children play.

On page three, this document states that the Bayshore Estates subject property is not over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, despite the fact that Kootenai County Community Development planning staff knew – beginning with the earlier rezoning hearing process of 2018 – that updated USGS maps of 2005 definitively show the Greensferry area to be over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. Worst of all, the report contains approval, by both the Department of Environmental Quality and Panhandle Health District, for 57 septic tanks to be sited only 125 feet above the community well water table.

The report states: “While staff understands there have been some recent studies to suggest that a portion of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer may be located south of the Spokane River, to date, Panhandle Health District and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality have not adopted a new map to reflect any of the potential findings. Based on the location of the aquifer as depicted in the ArcView GIS Map, the PHD requirement of one (1) dwelling per five (5) acres does not apply. Therefore, degradation of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer as it relates to septic drain fields is not an issue.”

The November 2020 petition from Greensferry Stakeholders to the State of Idaho for recategorization of the Greensferry water well area as an officially designated part of the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum-Prairie Aquifer is a direct result of this dangerous and insufficient Community Development document.

In December 2020, Dave Shults, one of the primary recategorization petitioners, sent the following letter to David Callahan, director of Kootenai County Community Development:

“Many citizens and customers of the Greenferry Water District submitted a petition on July 22, 2020 for the official record for the Bayshore Subdivision approval process. The petition requested that the property be recognized as part of the Rathdrum Prairie sole source aquifer and that the proposed subdivision be subjected to the 'one septic tank for five acres' rule.

Unfortunately, the county staff and hearing examiner gave little consideration for this plea for protection of the drinking water source for the water district. As all the local regulators and water district fumble around with the plan for a nutrient modeling study, the petitioners continue to believe that there is an avenue for all parties to do the right thing, and recognize the importance of their role in protecting the drinking water aquifer.

Because no local party seems to be finding a positive pathway for resolving this interest of the many concerned citizens, a new petition has been submitted according to Idaho law, for the Idaho Board of Environmental Quality to recategorize the area surrounding the water district wells to be designated as sensitive of need for protection of ground water as is the area that has already been designated as being over the Rathdrum Prairie sole source aquifer….All parties have listened to the developer’s attempt to exercise a loophole for far too long, knowing for many years that the property is over the sole source aquifer. It’s time to stop this ‘hands tied’ madness.”