Sunday, June 16, 2024

Coeur d'Alene council to decide if public can comment at Marriott appeal hearing

Staff Writer | May 16, 2024 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The public isn’t cleared to comment at an appeal hearing for the Marriott hotel planned at Sixth Street and Sherman Avenue, but that isn't final.

The Coeur d’Alene Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday voted 4-2 to recommend the city council approve changes to municipal code that would allow for comment at appeal hearings, but not for pending appeals.

Downtown resident Joan Woodard’s appeal of the Design Review Commission’s January decision approving the proposed six-story Marriott hotel is scheduled to be heard June 4.  

Commissioner Lynn Fleming said she understood that people want to comment again at the appeal hearing, but said they already gave their input to the DRC.

“A second chance, I think that puts shade on that DRC,” Fleming said. 

She said changing city codes to allow the public to comment all over again “draws this process out, and it costs those people money.”

“Sometimes, we don’t always win,” Fleming said.

The hotel would have 131 rooms, 130 parking spaces, three stories of underground parking, a fitness center, a rooftop bar and an outdoor patio. A spokesman said they hope to start construction this summer.

The appeal hearing was initially scheduled before the city council April 16 and about 50 people showed up, but per city code, they could not comment. The council voted to table the hearing to provide time to consider changing its codes to allow public input.

City codes say no new evidence may be introduced at an appeal hearing, but it’s likely people will try.

“That is difficult to limit,” said Hilary Patterson, Coeur d’Alene community planning director.

Frederick McLaren told the Planning Commission on Tuesday he lives in Parkside condominiums on Front Avenue. He said the Marriott hotel will block the view from his sixth-floor unit.

“When I will look out of my condo to the north, I will see a wall about 20 feet from my windows,” he said. “When I go to the patio, I will see the rooftop eating area and restaurant.”

McLaren estimated the hotel will decrease the value of his condo by about $500,000.

“There will be others in the same position,” he said.

Planning Chairman Tom Messina said he supported people being able to offer input to the city but wasn’t convinced people needed another opportunity to speak on the Marriott project.

He said the city council can read public comments made at the January hearing.

“We listened to all the public testimony at the particular time and we made our correct decision. The DRC made the correct decision,” he said.

Commissioner Peter Luttropp said he wanted to follow the council’s wishes to change the code and allow public comment on the Marriot project at the appeal hearing.

“They’re the ones that pay the price for poor decisions and good decisions,” he said.

Fleming, Luttropp, Ward and Messina voted to recommend approval of the amendments as presented, but to not have them apply to pending appeals. Sarah McCracken and Mark Coppess voted no.

At the January hearing in a packed room at City Hall, the Marriott proposal was roundly criticized. Many argued it did not fit the character of the area. 

Messina and Commissioner Jon Ingalls pointed out the six-member commission's authority was limited to whether the project met a set of certain design criteria for the Downtown Core zoning district. Its impact on parking, businesses, character, police or taxpayers was not under their purview.

McLaren said the DRC should consider more than whether the hotel checked the appropriate boxes and met zoning requirements.

“I think your role is a little broader, or it should be,” he said. 

Patterson said the city council will take the commission's recommendation under advisement when it meets Tuesday and may adopt it, leave the code as is or modify the amendments.

City attorney Randy Adams said the city council has the option to approve the changes and have them be effective to allow for public testimony June 4.

Councilman Dan Gookin said Wednesday he hopes people will be allowed to speak at the appeal hearing. 

“I want to hear from the public,” he said.