Idaho: County rejects Lost Creek development - Idaho Forest Industries plan was opposed by neighbors

Thomas Clouse
Staff writer

The Spokesman-Review


Coeur d'Alene, Idaho_ The Kootenai County Commission earned hugs Wednesday when it unanimously voted to deny the controversial Lost Creek subdivision proposed west of Rathdrum.

Virtually all neighbors fought the plan by Idaho Forest Industries to convert 256 forested acres into 184 lots and homes.

More than 150 residents argued that the high-density subdivision, located between North Idaho, Winch and Chase roads would ruin their rural way of life.

But Commission Gus Johnson -- who easily won re-election Tuesday -- said he voted to deny the request based on his concerns over sewer, water and potential traffic problems.

"Regarding demand on groundwater resources, I have a concern that we can't determine compatibility with this goal until the aquifer study has been completed," he said.

Developers, including former Kootenai Planning Commission Chairwoman Katie Brodie, had plans for a 10 million gallon sewage lagoon.

"I'm concerned that the sewage lagoon will have a negative impact on the quality of life of adjacent residents," Johnson said.

The development would have built homes around a creek that is a major recharge area for the Rathdrum Prairie/Spokane Valley Aquifer.

"Also, I'm concerned about the potential water quality impact if there were problems with the lagoon," Johnson said.

Brodie wasn't happy with the vote.

"It's kind of a scary day for private property rights," she said. "It's a sad day for Kootenai County and for anyone who wants to see Kootenai County go forward."

But the decision brought tears to the eyes of neighbor Tracey Ragan, who vehemently fought the plan. Ragan later hugged each commissioner.

"On behalf of all the neighbors, we THANK you," she said to the commissioners.

Claudia Agate, who served as spokeswoman for the group of opposing property owners, said she didn't know what to expect Wednesday.

"We just kept our fingers crossed. We don't hold a grudge against IFI," Agate said. "But if they are so environmentally conscious, why would they destroy such a beautiful piece of property?"

Attorney Scott Poorman, who represented the neighbors, said he told them from the beginning that they were fighting an uphill battle.

"IFI is a first-class organization," Poorman said. "But IFI carries a big hammer. I applaud the commissioners' courage to deny the application."

Previously, some of the neighbors screamed foul when Johnson suggested moving the decision until the day after the election. Johnson denied that he was delaying the vote to avoid voter backlash.

Commissioner Ron Rankin defended Johnson and the postponement.

"If Gus had been playing for the crowd, he could have pushed for an immediate decision," Rankin said. "That had zero to do with it."


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