Boundary County Planning and Zoning Commission
November 20, 2014 Regular Meeting
Attending: Matt Cossalman, John Cranor, Ron Self, Caleb Davis, Kim Peterson, Scott Fuller, Marciavee Cossette; staff, John Moss.
At 5:30 pm Cossalman, opened the regular meeting and introduced the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission and Staff. Cossaalman modified the agenda to hear from, after the reading of the previous meeting's minutes, an applicant for the P&Z Commission, Wade Purdom.
Davis moved to adopt the 10/16/14 minutes as read, Fuller seconded, and approval was unanimous.
Wade Purdom was invited to the microphone to introduce himself. He gave his name, said he had lived in the county for three years, and that his background is as an accountant, currently employed as a full time evangelist south of Bonners Ferry. Prior to moving here Mr. Purdom said he and his wife lived in China. Moving back to North Idaho, they are particularly attracted to the freedom here.
When asked by Cranor what Boundary County needs right now, the response was 'first, more jobs', and when asked what role P&Z would place in creating more jobs, Mr. Purdom responded 'By enabling those with ideas to come in and contribute, for example, retirees might join the Commission with some good ideas'.
In response to the question “Have you read the Comprehensive Plan”, Mr. Purdom responded “Not all of the plan, but I have read Sections 13 and 14, and some of the Ordinance as well. In fact, I found several errors there.” Cossalman injected “The Planning & Zoning Commission is in the Process of reviewing the Ordinance, and perhaps it would help to know what needs to be corrected?” The response: “There are several references to Section 21, and Section 21 on the internet does not exist.”
Purdom continued “I also do proof reading, and saw an instance where instead of saying “may do something” it said “my do something” - the 'a' was missing.”
Peterson asked “What is your personal philosophy on property rights?” Purdom replied “Everyone has the right to do what they want as long as it doesn't infringe on their neighbors.”
Cranor asked “Since Boundary County currently does not have building permits, do you think this is a good or bad thing, and why? Purdom's response “Good, because it allows people to do what they want, and if the consequences of not doing the right thing makes it impossible to sell their land, that's the price they pay. But it is their choice, and that is good.”
Cossalman then stated “On this Commission we serve in both a legislative role, where we advise the County Commissioners what we think should be in the zoning ordinance and in the comprehensive plan; we also serve in a judicial aspect when we decide whether certain variances and conditional use permits fall withing the letter of the zoning ordinance. Can you share a little of your experience in matters where you're the judge?”
Purdom replied “I don't know about being a judge, but as a teacher I am testing people all the time. It isn't always possible to ignore the emotional state of someone, but basically I want to know the facts. I don't know all the emotional baggage that surrounds a situation, but there is usually a standard that applies in a given situation and I can apply the facts to that standard to decide an issue.”
Cossalman responded “Sometimes we have a whole room full of people diametrically opposed to whatever an applicant is proposing.” Laughter, then after Cossalman determined there were no more questions he thanked Mr. Purdom for his interest in wishing to serve the citizens of Boundary County. He concluded his remarks by advising Mr. Purdom of the selection process, in which he would be notified of his status after several candidates have been interviewed. Cossalman then invited Mr. Purdom to stay for the rest of the meeting, during which he could observe the Commission in action regarding two variance hearings and later listen to discussion concerning the review of some ordinance details being reviewed.
Chairman Cossalman read the hearing procedure, pursuant to Section 19 of Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance 2012-1. The applicant of Staff Report 14-085, Terri Cochran, was asked to make an opening statement.
Terri Cochran explained that her husband couldn't make the meeting and said that they had owned the property for 10 years. She stated that she was originally from Sandpoint and that although they have been gone for some time they purchased the property to get back to their roots.
They bought the property from Jeff Metinger and when purchased the driveway was already established. The land is 3.46 acres but only 1 acre is buildable because of a slope that drops then rises back to their neighbor's property; there is a deep ravine there.
On the 1 acre of property there is a building already there, and yet they have accumulated a lot of stuff and need some place to put it. Because of the way the existing building sits, to gain the space needed for the 4 car garage size building they wish to construct, one corner of that garage would extend to 10 feet from the property line. The other corner of the garage would be several feet further back from the property line.
Ms. Cochran explained that she has had discussions with her neighbor Gerry Bliss and that because they have a very good relationship they have walked the property together, viewed the spot where the garage would be, and Mr. Bliss is comfortable with the proposed structure.
After more discussion relating to establishing the property line and Mr. Bliss's approval of the new structure as proposed, Cossalman asked for the Administrator's report.
Staff mentioned a visit to the property to post and remove a sign announcing the hearing. In that visit he noted what appeared to be emough space, to the right of an existing shop, adequate for a 4 car garage. He further noted the placement of the driveway and what appeared to be an awkward choice involving severe landscaping to move the driveway, and space beyond the existing shop to place a future home.
In response to questions for the Administrator, Self asked since there is no topographical map, what the property looked like? Staff indicated there was a large concrete pad in front of the shop, and that perhaps 30' beyond that the property slopes away.
Regarding the question from Cossalman concerning why certain material was attached to the Staff Report, Staff responded by describing the Cochran's as having had a long term relationship with the property, planning ten tears ago to build here, and the attachments show the audit trail of their activity; the Residential Zoning Permit of 2008 was intended for future use of the property, but the shop was established not as a residence but as a workshop.
Ms. Cochran interjected: “At the time of building the shop the rules were different, but we got the permit for when we want to build in the future.” Cossalman responded by saying that the permit was good until the property is sold. He asked for any further questions of the Administrator.
There being none, Chairman Cossalman asked for members of the public to speak in favor of the application. There being no response, he asked for those who were undecided, neither for or against, to speak. After no response, he asked for those who were opposed to speak. When there was no response, Cossalman called on the applicant to make a rebuttal and closing statement. Ms. Cochran simply restated her desire to be a responsible member of the community, and said “It is so refreshing to be able to build the home of your dreams and be able to do what you want with it, and we appreciate that.”
Thanking the applicant, Cossalman closed the portion of the public hearing for public testimony and opened the hearing to discussion with the Board.
Davis mentioned that the setback was the result of the terrain, and since the neighbor is not objecting feels the request is OK. Cosssalman agreed regarding the terrain, saying that when considering a variance one key factor relates to how the terrain limits the use of the property.
Cranor said he sees no downside to this request.
Peterson pointed out that the criteria includes the question “Would we grant the same privilege to another applicant”, and the Board agreed that in similar circumstances the same finding would result. After the Chairman called for a motion Davis moved to approve the application, Fuller seconded, and the motion carried with a unanimous vote.
Next on the Agenda, Chairman Cossalman opened the hearing on application 14-087, by Darlene and Lela Jackson, 418 Huff Road, Bonners Ferry. This is for a variance permit to allow the applicant to place a secondary dwelling on the property, occupying 1040 square feet. We will render a decision on this; the relevant code section is in Definitions, Section 2.1Accessory Dwelling Unit not to exceed 950 square feet – so that's why the variance: because 1040 is larger than 950 square feet.
Following the script dictated by Section 19, the Chairman asked if any member of the Board had made ex parte contact with the applicant? When no member replied in the affirmative, Cossalman asked if there was anyone who would like to step forward and make an opening statement.
Cossalman noted there was nobody present to represent the applicant, and after acknowledging that Staff also had no idea why the applicant was not present, Cossalman directed a review of the Staff Report for 14-087, asking Staff for details.
Staff gave background: Some time ago the applicant asked if they could get an address for a second swelling on their property. It was not clear that the applicant was in the process of placing a dwelling on their property, rather it seemed that the dwelling was there and now an address was needed. The question asked was “Where do we get an address for our residence?” In response the applicant was directed to see the GIS Mapper. The next contact occurred two weeks later when the applicant came back and said “the GIS Mapper said I was to come back and see you.” I responded by saying “You were here two weeks ago”, and the applicant replied “Well, we now have the home on the property but apparently we have to talk to you about it.”
Staff went on to say “When the applicant came in to inquire about an address and left to see the GIS Mapper, it was not clear that the applicant was actively involved in placing a structure on the property, nor was it clear there was any question as to just what their structure represented. I confess that this ignorance on my part in not asking specifically just what it was the applicant wanted to get done has resulted in the applicant placing the structure on their property and THEN coming in to ask what it was I wanted to see them about (per the GIS Mapper's instruction to return to my office).”
Staff continued to explain to the applicant that because the structure is already on the property there is no way to avoid a public hearing to discuss this variance; there is no way to predict the outcome of a hearing but, as explained to the applicant, you are in clear violation of an ordinance which restricts the size of an accessory dwelling unit to 950 square feet.
Staff continued “When I went up to post the sign I was pretty amazed at the layout of the property. 16 acres is a lot of land and the house is at the top of a long hill and the second swelling looks good where it is placed, across from a shed on the way up to the house”. Here, the P&Z Commission members viewed the layout of the property as shown in the GISArc map and satellite view. Staff finished with “The new dwelling is reasonably sized and fits well where it has been placed.
Staff introduced two letters of concern, one from Isabel Huff, 1676 Huff Rd, Bonners Ferry and the second from Don Jordan, 1281 Brown Creek Rd, Naples. In reviewing Ms, Huff's concerns regarding driveway traffic, visibility, and a need for an address sign, Peterson agreed that everyone on her (Peterson's) street shared the same feelings regarding privacy, visibility and road standards, and Peterson acknowledges the frustrations expressed by Ms. Huff, but clarified that the variance request is not related to Ms. Huff's concerns; the presence of a second dwelling is not the issue, but the size of that dwelling.
With regard to Mr. Jordan's letter, which expressed concerns that a possibility exists that the secondary dwelling unit may be a means of circumventing minimum parcel size. He also suggests that because of the size, the dwelling may one day be converted into a stand alone rental unit.
Staff added to the discussion by explaining that when discovering the situation existed, he placed himself in the applicant's shoes and went looking for a home, whether a trailer or manufactured home, in an attempt to see what was available. Researching some 20 units in each category, and attempting to restrict the requirements to no more than two bedrooms, his analysis resulted in a current market average size of 1050 square feet (covering both trailer and manufactured homes) offering two bedrooms. There were a few units available under 950 square feet, and a few units offering more that 1200 square feet, but the average calculated to be 1050 square feet.
Cossaalman had two questions: Is there a foundation under this new modular home? (unknown) Is the square footage the exterior square footage or the living space square footage? (unknown, guess it to be exterior)
Cossalman asked if the 950 square foot maximum represents either exterior of living space? Staff replied I can read the same limitation either way; the definition does not describe which dimension is applicable. However, from a practical standpoint it would be the living space, not the exterior space, so as to maximize the benefit where it matters.
Self stated that from an assessor's office standpoint, where interior access is not available nor necessarily desired, it is easier to calculate square footage from external measurements.
In the absence of the applicant to answer specific questions, discussion whirled around whether the ordinance requires a separate form for an accessory dwelling unit. Staff indicated the Residential Placement Permit does not specifically address an ADU, nor is the size referenced anywhere but in the description of an ADU. Some discussion involved redesigning the Residential Placement Permit, while other questions regarding the foundation of the unit went unanswered. Peterson thought that maybe because the mistake has been made and the home is there, we've got a done deal, but she asked what the others thought.
Cossalman asked for any final input from Staff (there was none); he asked for input from any in favor of, neutral to or opposed to the request for a variance, and then since the applicant was not present he closed public testimony and then opened the P&Z Commission floor to discussion. He began by returning to Peterson's question: Is this a done deal?
Peterson suggested that if the dwelling were not already in place, the question would be 'is 950 square feet too small to accommodate a reasonable sized dwelling', but instead the question is based on the awkwardness of looking at an existing dwelling which is greater than the defined maximum size and asking 'is it OK to allow a dwelling 90 square feet in excess of the minimum'. Now it seems we don't have much choice.
Self stated that there are two issues here: one, resolve this question; two, how can we deal with this later? The first is something we can decide, the second is an administrative issue.
Again, discussion swirled around the merits of keeping the existing maximum size but granting a variance, viewing the request as a Conditional Use situation requiring a Conditional Use Permit, the option of permitting a family split, knowing the Ag/Forest zone is a 10 acre minimum but permitting a size less than that consistent with the guidelines allowing a Simple Subdivision granting land to a family member, and no decision making seemed possible in the absence of the applicant.
Finally, there was a motion made by Self and seconded by Peterson to table this hearing until January 15, 2015, in expectation that the applicant would be present to participate in the discussion and answer some key questions. Motion carried (Cranor, Self, Peterson) with three abstentions (Davis, Fuller, Cossette).
Much additional time was spent in discussing how to incorporate CAFO considerations into the ordinance, whether to make additional changes to Section 11 regarding the incorporation of simple Division of a parcel versus Simple Subdivision (changes proposed by Dan Studer), making definition changes (i.e., 2.1accessorydwelling unit). Much was said but nothing of substance materialized. It was decided to resume the discussion at the next regular meeting. It was also suggested, since an amendment to the ordinance requires Commissioners approval and two public hearings, that any changes deemed worthwhile should be put together and all changes should be presented for approval at the same time.
John B. Moss
Matt Cossalman, Chairman Date