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A complicated place

by Rick Thomas
| April 11, 2010 9:00 PM

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Bayview is a mix of the old and the new, with some developers building new luxury housing, even as other parts of the town on Lake Pend Oreille appear near collapse.

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Float homes in Bayview are limited in size by their footprint, so many owners who want more room often build vertically. That worries some that such homes might tip over under heavy snow loads.

BAYVIEW - This is a small town with multiple personalities, and often they do not get along. While part of Bayview seems trapped in time, with the look of an ancient fishing village that has long since passed its prime, other parts are experiencing a sort of renaissance that not everyone who lives there is happy about.

BAYVIEW - This is a small town with multiple personalities, and often they do not get along.

While part of Bayview seems trapped in time, with the look of an ancient fishing village that has long since passed its prime, other parts are experiencing a sort of renaissance that not everyone who lives there is happy about.

"Bayview is complicated," says Tom Lloyd, a member of the Development Analysis Committee of the Bayview Chamber of Commerce.

The group was organized in 2005 when Bayview suddenly became more than a blip on the radar of those alert for opportunity in a booming real estate market.

"It was a response to being invaded by a bunch of developers," said Ken Saunders, chairman of the DAC. "They were all proposing things not in line with our vision of Bayview. It was a big mass of change. We wanted to get on top and see what they were, good or bad."

Among those who got the jump on just about everybody was Bob Holland, a developer who swept in and bought up a hotel, RV park, two marinas and the real estate along Vista Bay. Soon, he was making major changes, developing a reputation for doing it his way with little regard for rules.

A spawning bed was destroyed by pilings being driven for a dock, and dozens of red tags stopping work on numerous projects were issued by Kootenai County building inspectors.

"Holland did a lot of things without permits," Lloyd said. "Some of it is good stuff, some bad."

It was more than the residents were willing to take. Suddenly, the town without rules was going through a major transition.

"DAC was formed because of this kind of activity," Lloyd said. Originally a stand-alone committee, it was later absorbed into the chamber.

"We understand development is a way of life," Lloyd said.

All the red tags were corrected, and complaints by the DAC that a marina at Harborview is still unfinished will be addressed. Another two dozen slips remain to be finished there, but Holland has another year to complete them.

The changes led to lost public parking and fewer public facilities, but one of the biggest hits to the economy of Bayview came with the loss of 70 trailer spaces and dozens of other year-round residences, along with rooms for seasonal visitors.

"That was rooms for the summer, from an economic standpoint taken out of the picture," said George Grandy, another committee member.

The loss of year-round residents took a toll on local businesses, and fewer seasonal accommodations meant less spending in the town in the summer.

"We took a real hit for people in the community because of the developer," Wilcox said.

Other developers also arrived, and got the support of the committee, but not without meeting some of the demands of the group. That may have backfired, as the delays have kept dozens of potential homes approved for construction from being built.

At least two projects ready to go are effectively on hold. Wendell Olson, president of Viking Construction, is holding off building on 29 lots approved, after delays of about three years.

"We had some problems getting this project through," he said. "They fought, fought, fought."

By the time the approval process was completed, the market had collapsed.

"We would have been foolish to start building a couple of years ago," Olson said. "It might have been a blessing. I didn't get stupid building specs."

Chris Hansen, president/owner of Hansen Timber Management Inc., said only one of 22 lots in the company's Baywatch Estates development overlooking the bay has been sold, but it is related more to the economy than to the three years it took to get approval for the project.

"The community had no problem with our development," he said. The DAC asked a few questions, but "there were no holdups with the Bayview people."

The group is not happy with the development of condominiums at Vista Bay, in part because of the narrow, steep roads leading to them. But that is a done deal, and the committee is now looking to the future of Bayview.

One of their concerns is a dilapidated building on pilings that appears ready to fall into the bay on the north side, and has steadily become more decrepit over the years.

"If it is replaced we will claim it is new, and demand a 25-foot setback," as now required for new construction on the lake, Wilcox said. "We would like it to go away."

Under Department of Lands rules, it can only be rebuilt for its current purpose, which was boat repair, he said.

They are also concerned that float homes, which cannot be expanded except vertically, could become unstable and tip under heavy snow loads.

They are also trying to find a way to undo the damage done to Bayview Creek, which flows past the Viking project.

Bayview Creek comes off Cape Horn Mountain, with several confluences, and runs year-round, but culverts prevent the return for spawning of west slope trout, a strand of pure cutthroat trout, Lloyd said.

"We want to restore their ability to go upstream," he said. In spring the lake is low, too high for them to jump, and flows fast at the culvert, wearing them out, and they have no place to get a run, he said.

A swale at one end of a parking lot owned by Holland is ineffective because it does not sit high enough above the high water level of the lake and floods easily.

The swale is bonded for completion, Holland said.

The members of the DAC say they are not against progress, but want to see it happen in the right way.

"Let's not screw the place up," Lloyd said.

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