Thursday, May 30, 2024

Residents question recent county vote

Staff Writer | April 30, 2022 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Some residents say the Board of County Commissioners didn’t follow proper procedure during a recent hearing to consider a request to expand a planned unit development.

Meanwhile, county staff contend there’s no procedure to violate.

The contention stems from the March 24 BOCC meeting, which is available to watch on Kootenai County’s YouTube channel.

Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club sought approval to add 28 acres already owned by the club to the existing PUD and use the area for a “spa and med facility.”

The request would bring the PUD to 692 acres in total, without increasing the PUD’s density.

Commissioner Bill Brooks moved for a vote to approve the request, then voted against it, surprising his fellow commissioners. He said he made the motion simply to get the vote over with.

Commissioner Leslie Duncan voted in favor of the request, while Commissioner Chris Fillios voted to deny it.

After the vote, Duncan elaborated on her reasons for voting to approve the request, saying the move would prevent major growth.

“Now you have opened up those 28 acres to over 100 homes, potentially,” she said to Fillios and Brooks.

County attorney Pat Braden spoke up.

“Since you’re on the prevailing side, you could move to have a reconsideration of the vote,” Braden said to Fillios.

Duncan moved to reconsider, though she was not on the prevailing side of the original vote.

Fillios seconded the motion, triggering a second vote and ultimately changing his position. This time, the request was approved.

Residents filed a request for reconsideration and another public hearing is scheduled for June 9.

Coeur d’Alene resident Bev Twillman said the hearing wouldn’t be necessary if the BOCC had followed what she believes is the correct procedure.

“It was totally a procedural breakdown,” said Twillman, who represents Neighbors for Responsible Growth, a watchdog group that aims to preserve Kootenai County’s rural areas. “The first vote is the one that should’ve counted.”

Twillman asserted that Duncan had no standing to make the motion to reconsider, making the second vote invalid.

Duncan refused to answer questions on the matter.

“I am not comfortable answering questions that could taint the public hearing process,” she told The Press via email.

In an April 19 email to Twillman, Pat Braden said that reconsiderations are a “well-recognized part of parliamentary procedure” and pointed to Rule 36 of Robert’s Rules of Order as an example of how they can be handled.

The BOCC does not operate using Robert’s Rules of Order.

Even so, Twillman noted, Robert’s Rules require that a motion to reconsider be made by someone on the prevailing side of the initial vote.

Community Development director David Callahan told The Press on Friday said that who made the motion is “largely irrelevant,” because no state law, local code or bylaw binds the BOCC to any particular process.

The BOCC can’t violate a procedure that doesn’t exist, he said.

“It comes down to having an orderly process, which they certainly did,” Callahan said.

He added that the way to resolve any procedural issues is to have another hearing, which is already scheduled.

“The reconsideration cures that,” he said.

Coeur d’Alene resident Janet Torline said she believes the confusion at the March 24 hearing has placed an undue burden on residents.

“It’s your fiscal responsibility to come up with the money to advertise and notice (the next hearing), not to mention the time it takes to reach out to your community,” she said. “We paid for this public hearing. We work hard at this.”

Between notices and mailings, Twillman said her group will have spent around $700 between the two public hearings.

“It costs that much to notice everyone in regards to the hearing,” she said.

The next hearing on the proposed PUD expansion is at 6 p.m. on June 9.