Boundary County Planning & Zoning Commission

MINUTES – April 21, 2011


Members present: Bruce Behrman, Ron Self, Dan Studer, John Cranor, John Moss, Marciavee Cossette, Steve Shelman, Matt Cossalman. Member absent, Paul Shelton. Staff present: Mike Weland.


  1. Chairman Studer called the meeting to order and opened public hearing on application11-012. He read the hearing procedure. No member cited conflict of interest or ex parte contact. Applicant Lisa Robbe presented photos of zip lines. She said she had discussed the proposal with neighbors and the large majority support her proposal, she stated that those in opposition were people who care about the neighborhood, and that most of the concern was the proposed access route via Christmas Lane, she stated she has looked into providing guest access to the proposed use, if approved, via Grizzly Gap Road, to which she said she has deeded access, and presented that easement agreement. She stated that she has consulted Panhandle Health and Idaho Fish and Game about the proposal. She said the operation would not be visible from U.S. 95 and that a few of her neighbors might be able to catch an occasional glimpse of the proposed activity. She said she would be hiring local people and would be bringing people to the area, benefiting the local economy.
  2. Studer called for a staff report, there was none. Cossalman asked what weight planning and zoning should give to easement issues; Weland said that the agreements for access on private roads were civil matters between property owners and that it wasn’t the place of the P&Z commission to attempt to resolve who had what rights, as that was a matter for the courts; he said that if the proposal were approved, such approval did not have any impact on access agreements.
  3. Studer called for testimony from those in favor of the proposal. Due to some people at the hearing who also needed to go to the school district meeting, he called for testimony from those who needed to leave.
    1. Mike Sloan, Boundary County Economic Development Specialist and member of the Chamber of Commerce, said Robbe had presented the concept to the Chamber and the Chamber membership was in favor as the proposal would bring jobs to the area, that the location and this type activity would stimulate the economy in Naples, Bonners Ferry and throughout the community.
    2. Colet Allen, 146 Diamond Rd., director of volunteers at the Visitor’s Center, concurred with Sloan, saying that last year, 10,000 visitors came through, and half of them were interested in things to do in Boundary County. She stated that this proposal would provide an activity many visitors would like.
    3. Roy Holzhauser, 1776 White Mountain Rd., said he’s lived in the area five years and has known Robbe for 30 years, cited the benefits to the community. Cossalman asked what impacts such use would have on him at his residence, Holzhauser said little if any.
    4. Jenni Barry, 1812 White Mountain Rd., said that Robbe has sound insight and has looked into the environmental and economic ramifications, she said she appreciates the applicant’s willingness to discuss the project with her neighbors.
    5. Candy Beck, 1045 Grouse Hill Rd., said she’s known and worked with Robbe for 21 years, and said she’s thrilled to see such an activity designed to accommodate the disabled, not only as guests, but as employees.
    6. Tony Rohrwasser, South Boundary Fire Chief, said he was personally in favor of the proposal, but as fire chief had to testify as uncommitted, he was permitted to testify out of turn so he could attend the school levy meeting. He said that he had visited the site at Robbe’s invitation, and said that summer access to the site is good. He stated that she has agreed to widen some turn-arounds, and has cleared an area to make the site accessible to Northwest MedStar. He stated that there was a good source of water at the site for fire suppression. He was asked if he’d looked at Grizzly Gap, Rohrwasser said he had only looked at Christmas Lane.
    7. Scott Soults, 216 Pine Creek Road, Moyie, stated that Robbe was his ex-wife and said he knows the property well, and was testifying as a wildlife biologist with 20-years experience. He said that wildlife impacts would be minimal due to the light impact of the use and the fact that the proposal was mainly arboreal, the most affected animals would be birds and squirrels. He said there would be minimal impact to huntable species and little impact on wildlife movement through the McArthur Lake corridor. He said an adjoining 3,900 acres had been set aside as Forest Legacy land, meaning it would not be built on, which will much improve that corridor. Discussion was held on access and water.
    8. Mike Richardson, 994 Skyline Rd., Naples, said he has lived in the county since 1983 and is a practicing certified arborist and has been consulting with Robbe in relation to the project. He said he has been to the property several times. He said that the proposal was a canopy tour, and that few people would be able to see the activity and that it would have little to no impact on neighbors. He said he has been working to identify the right trees. He said the zip lines would not only be fun, but would be educational. He said it was a very good project that would provide local employment and economic benefits, and that people who came to visit would likely stay in local motels and eat in local restaurants. He said Robbe has been working hard to address concerns; two shuttles would run up and back each day the use was in operation, and that the use would have a low impact on the environment and bring a positive benefit to the community. Moss asked how far along the process was, Richardson said everything is conceptual at this point, if the project is approved, he will begin climbing and flagging trees for use. Studer asked if there were enough healthy trees to accommodate the use, Richardson described the locations and there were. Cranor asked about line placement, Richardson said the techniques used were non-invasive and designed not to harm the tree. He said it’s an interesting project.
    9. Carol Mastre, Sunrise Trailer Court, said she supported Robbe.
    10. Don Jordan, Naples, said Robbe came in better prepared than most applicants and had covered all concerns.
    11. Leona Norman, 1282 Grizzly Gap Rd., said she was Robbe’s closest neighbor, and that she’s reviewed the application and if she thought the concerns raised were going to happen, she would be concerned, but she said the use was no different than hunters using a tree stand. She said that environmentally, the project was very sound, with little to no impact while benefiting tourism and the hospitality industry as well as the overall economy. She said she has been working with others on Grizzly Gap Road to form a road committee, and said Robbe has agreed to take part.
    12. Kirk Ellis, Upper Pack River Rd., said he would be helping build the project as well as providing transportation using a 12-person van using ethanol made from potatoes.
    13. Damon Norman, 1282 Grizzly Gap, said he was the closest neighbor to the proposed project and he thinks it’s a good idea. He said he has been on a zip line, and the most noise made comes from the people riding the line, not the line itself. He said it’s an adrenaline rush. He said Robbe answered all the concerns he and his wife raised. He said Robbe understands property rights and will not infringe on the rights of her neighbors. He said she has agreed to help maintain Grizzly Gap Road, and that she has long been a good neighbor. He said he supports the project, as it will give people the chance to enjoy the area with no adverse impact.
    14. Rick Boal, Coeur d’Alene, said he knows the quality of the people involved in the project, saying that he’s known the course designer for over eight years, and that Mr. Green has 30-years experience and is highly respected. He said the proposal was ecologically friendly and a benefit to the local community, not only to tourists. He said Robbe’s home was on the property, and nobody had greater love for that land than she. He said she will live with the project. Studer asked if Mr. Green had been to the property, Boal said that he had and had conducted a feasibility study and found that the property offers high potential.
    15. Jerry Higgs, 7612 Wildhorse Lane, said that he’s worked with Robbe on several civic projects, and said she has deep ties to the community. He said the project would have little negative impact. He said business in Boundary County is on the decline, and this meets the goals of the community as regards economic development. He said that those who complained are typical in that they have their own little piece of heaven and want to deny others theirs.
    16. Kelly Navarro, 6214 Fir St., Bonners Ferry, said Robbe has covered all the technical issues and said that she has integrity and is a good steward of the land. She said Robbe epitomizes the word sustainability. She said that, if approved, she will work providing part of the curriculum, and said the project would have a positive ripple effect throughout the community.
    17. Jason Olson, 41 Fawn Lane, said he endorsed the project and said zip lines are a growth market.
    18. Tim Patton, 184 Fall Creek Rd., said that as a resource planner, he has walked the property and said that the project is compatible with the wildlife corridor and would have no negative impacts. He said it would be an educational experience, and as it would be handicap accessible, would be a unique business. He stated that he had spoken of the project with Chip Corsi, IDFG, who concurred with the assessment that the project would have little impact on wildlife.
    19. Speaking uncommitted, Teresa Wardle, Dusty Lane, said the proposal will bring benefits to the neighborhood, but she would like to see neighbors work more closely together to resolve the issues raised.
    20. Speaking in opposition, Jim Huntley 1146 Christmas Lane, said he lives about ½ mile from the Robbe property and has a view of the area. He said that a business of this nature, which traverses private property, would increase traffic by 100 people per week, would result in increased crime and accidents, would adversely impact the wildlife corridor and reduce property values. He expressed concern about potential for the business to expand through acquisition of Forest Service lease or purchase of additional properties. He said the proposal would adversely impact the rural lifestyle that people in the area enjoy. He said that Robbe has used Christmas Lane without deeded access for the last 12 years with the consent of property owners along the route, but said that there was never any intent to provide access for a commercial use. Shelman asked if he had the same concerns since Robbe had altered the access to Grizzly Gap Road, if she’d agree not to expand, agreed to limit the number of zip lines. Huntley said he still had concerns. Studer asked him if he had a problem with emergency vehicles accessing the Robbe property via Christmas Lane, he said he did not. Cranor said the biggest point of concern was access, and pointed out that Robbe had agreed to make improvements to the road for emergency access. Huntley conceded that improved emergency access was a benefit. Behrman asked if, originally Christmas Lane had been a logging road, Huntley said it had. Self said that the road had originally been developed and used by Humbird for timber access, and that it had been deeded to the public for access.
    21. Carolyn Huntley, 1146 Christmas Lane, concurred with her husband, and said protecting the McArthur wildlife corridor should be of high priority, and provided a map and information on the corridor. She expressed concerns over loss of privacy, safety, dust and natural resource degradation. Matt asked what the zoning was in that area, staff answered agriculture/forestry. Studer asked about neighbors on Christmas Lane, Huntley said there were four plus one vacant home. Shelman asked about parcel sizes in the Christmas Hills subdivision, she said five acres. Shelman asked if there were CCRs, she said no.
    22. There being no further public testimony, Studer called for the applicant’s rebuttal. Robbe said she felt moving the client access to Grizzly Gap would address the concerns of neighbors, and said Grizzly Gap would be a better route, as there were no residences that would be passed. She said that Rohrwasser had addressed issues regarding fire safety and access, and she said she would make the improvements he’d recommended. She said that Idaho regulates zip lines and that she would have to be certified. She said that she recognized the importance of the McArthur Lake wildlife corridor, but said she’d spoken to IDFG and had been assured that such use would have minimal impact. She said water and sewer systems would exceed Panhandle Health requirements, and said she was working with Panhandle Health and abiding by their standards and requirements. Self asked about potential growth, Robbe said she would like to make a living from the enterprise, but said 40 acres was sufficient to make it a tourist destination. She said the Forest Service was not interested in offering a lease for such use. Moss asked where she was at in the permitting process, Robbe stated that she had not started as she was awaiting the county’s decision. She was asked how many employees were anticipated, she said that she would operate on a 2 to 12 guide/guest ratio, and anticipated seven employees, 4-5 guides and administrative staff. She said she expects that most employees would live in that area. Cossette asked about safety in getting wheelchairs to the platforms, Robbe stated that if she meets national standards, she can get insurance. Studer asked about structures currently on the property, Robbe said she has a 3,600 square foot, off-grid home powered by solar and hydro, and a hydro-hut. She was asked what number of guests she anticipated, she said she projects 100 people per week when operational. She said that guests will be met in town and shuttled to the site, which will have a positive economic impact. She said the market is not so much local residents as tourists, who would experience an enjoyable activity as well as learn about North Idaho.
  4. There being no further public comment, Studer closed the hearing and called for discussion. Cossalman said the commission had heard a lot about Robbe’s good character, but had to look at the application on its merits. He stated that the prime criteria established in the comprehensive plan was economic development, and said there had been a lot of testimony as to the economic benefits, which he agreed with. He said that reading the ag/forestry zone district specifications, it was clear that the drafters saw this type use as appropriate to the zone. Dan read through the considerations listed in the staff analysis. Members agreed that the site plan and application provided sufficient detail, that there was sufficient land area, that the use would not have substantial adverse impacts on surrounding properties, that the use would not create nuisances in excess of uses permitted in the area and that there were adequate public services available to accommodate the use. Discussion was held over this being considered as a special use despite the recent Supreme Court ruling, staff said that with the new ordinance being drafted, the worse that would happen if the decision were challenged would be that the application might be remanded for reconsideration under the new ordinance, and that in this case, recreational use was identified within the zone. Discussion was held regarding conditions or restrictions.
  5. After deliberation, Cossalman made motion to forward to county commissioners a recommendation that the application be approved as presented through line seven of the face of the application, provided that the applicant meets requirements of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board and provide such documentation to the administrator, that the applicant meet the requirements of Panhandle Health commensurate to the services provided, and provide documentation to the administrator, that the use be limited to eight zip lines, and that guests be shuttled to and from the property. There being no discussion, Self seconded, and the motion carried, with Cossalman, Self, Shelman, Moss, Cranor and Behrman voting “aye” and Cossette voting “nay.”
  6. Discussion was held on the zoning ordinance workshop and Cossalman presented material he’d developed for consideration in addition to the draft provided for Section 15. Members agreed to study the proposal, and an additional workshop was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursdya, April 28, in the courthouse jury room.
  7. There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.