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Oak Crest residents seek zoning protection

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | September 18, 2022 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Two residents of Oak Crest mobile home park asked the Coeur d’Alene Planning Commission to preserve current zoning there to prevent future high-density housing developments.

Mary Merrill and Christine Matheny spoke during the public hearing portion of the commission’s Tuesday meeting in the Library Community room.

Both mentioned recent and substantial rate hikes at the park, following last year’s purchase of it by Havenpark Communities, an investment company based in Orem, Utah.

“Although there are no current zoning requests, I ask you to make a commitment to maintain the zoning now and into the future,” Merrill said.

She said there are 454 families — including disabled veterans, senior citizens, parents and employees — living at the park off Ramsey Road.

“Maintaining zoning in our park is something that the city can do to help protect workforce housing and the residents of our community,” Merrill said.

Christine Matheny also addressed the commission. She said Havenpark’s purchase of the park has already “significantly affected” affordable housing, raising rents there for new residents to $795 a month.

She said the capital group “that did purchase the park is known for trying to shift zoning so they can sell properties again, to have high-density housing built.”

Havenpark Communities did not return a phone call from The Press on Thursday seeking comment for this story.

In a letter to Oak Crest residents, Havenpark wrote, “In order for us to preserve Oak Crest as a manufactured home community, we had to pay a market price that was competitive with what the development companies were offering.”

Matheny asked the Planning Commission to “protect the zoning of manufactured home parks in the city of Coeur d’Alene so that developers do not have an opportunity to go in there and displace senior citizens, vets, disabled persons, low-income families and our workforce that desperately needs affordable house.”

“Unfortunately, the park has already been impacted and it’s pushing people out,” she added.

While the city can't make a blanket statement it will preserve current zoning at Oak Crest, Hilary Patterson, Coeur d’Alene community planning director, wrote that any requested zone change would be required to follow the public hearing process.

The Planning Commission — if it recommended approval of a requested zone change — would make a recommendation to City Council, and then there would be a final hearing with the City Council.

If the Planning Commission denied a request, it could be appealed to the City Council. Otherwise the denial would become final 15 days after the date of the decision.

“For a zone change request, one of the required findings is conformance with the Comprehensive Plan,” Patterson wrote.

The 2042 Comprehensive Plan designates Oak Crest as Compact Neighborhood on the Future Land Use Map. That designation would support R-12 (single-family residential), R-17 (medium/high-density residential district that permits a mix of housing types), and MH-8 (mobile home district, which is the current zoning).

"So, theoretically, they could request an R-12 or an R-17 zone,” Patterson wrote.

In addition to the Future Land Use Map, the Comprehensive Plan goals and objectives are also evaluated for conformance, Patterson said.

"There are goals and objectives related to preserving existing housing stock and providing opportunities for new affordable and workforce housing,” Patterson wrote.

She said there is an additional finding that addresses an adverse impact on surrounding neighborhoods with regard to traffic, character, and existing land uses.

“The simple answer is that the city can deny a zone change request because it is not compatible and does not meet the required findings,” Patterson wrote.

If a developer were going to try and change land use designations and do higher density residential, they would likely request a Planned Unit Development in conjunction with the zone change, and possibly a subdivision, Patterson wrote.

“All of those would trigger a public hearing,” she wrote.

The city has not received any requests to change the zoning or land uses within Oak Crest.

City Attorney Randy Adams wrote that a zone change is not a “right” and can be denied.

"Council has a great deal of discretion in determining whether the criteria are met,” he wrote.

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