Rathdrum to decide major annexation request

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RATHDRUM — After a protest, new public hearing and an appeal at the planning and zoning level, Rathdrum's largest annexation request in years has reached the board that will ultimately decide its fate.

The City Council will hold a public hearing tonight at 6 on Bluegrass Development, LLC's 152-acre, single-family residential proposal. The site is near the southeast corner of Meyer and Lancaster roads.

The Lakeland Joint School District would receive a 10-acre land donation in the project for a future elementary school.

"With no impact fees and without developers considering setting aside some land for schools, it is difficult for us to keep up (with growth) as there is no funding mechanism from the state of Idaho for school construction and land acquisition," a letter from the school district to the city says. "The importance of responsible development with school site inclusion planning is very important."

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Deborah Furey, the lone person on that five-member board who didn't recuse herself, recommended last month after a public hearing that the City Council approve the request.

That hearing was a do-over after multiple board members and city staff decided they should have recused themselves from the original recommendation because of potential conflicts of interest. The commission at that time voted 4-1 recommend approval to the City Council.

Three commissioners recused themselves from the recommendation after the second hearing because of ties to the Lakeland Joint School District. The other commissioner is a mortgage lender who could potentially benefit from the project if it is approved by the City Council.

Resident Michael Fox then appealed Furey's recommendation, saying no quorum was present. However, the city attorney and Attorney General's Office disagreed with that assessment so the City Council last month voted 2-1 to deny Fox’s appeal.

Six people spoke in favor of the proposal during the second planning meeting, three were neutral and 13 either spoke or submitted forms in opposition.

Those in opposition said they fear that the large project will hamper Rathdrum's small-town feel, add pressure to what they believe are already infrastructure issues, and increase traffic problems.

They also believe pockets of vacant areas already inside the city should be developed first.

The applicants, John Magnuson and Tom Anderl, said there could be anywhere between 200 and 600 lots in the project; around 400 is most likely. They said they won't know the specific number until it is designed after the annexation process. About 10 percent of the project will feature larger lots that are a third of an acre.

Magnuson said it would take several years for the project to build out and it will feature mid-level homes.

"They won't be custom homes nor will they be starter homes," he said. "They'll be nice homes where families can live in the proximity of schools."

Some people have suggested that 5-acre parcels be considered for the site, but project proponents say that would provide no tax benefit for the city and require septic systems over the aquifer.

•In other business, the council will consider the Beyond Green annexation agreement and ordinance.

The 115-acre annexation with mostly a light industrial zoning and some multi-family was unanimously approved by the council last month

The site is at the southeast corner of Lancaster and Greensferry roads near the Rathdrum Power plant. It is contiguous with existing city boundaries.

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