The coeur d’alene press – local news, dakota ranch project goes 0-for-2 m power electricity

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A packed house was on hand to weigh in on the City Council’s consideration of an appeal of the planning and zoning commission’s decision March 19 to deny a special use permit for the Dakota Ranch Apartments project. The proposal would see a 140-unit apartment complex built on 8.17 acres owned by Jean Verna Rowles. The property lies 100 feet west of U.S. 95 and south of Dakota Avenue, and fronts Helen Avenue and Buttercup Lane.

The city comprehensive plan’s future residential densities map targets the area for high-density housing, observed Drew Dittman of Lake City Engineering. “We are in conformance with the comprehensive plan. It’s zoned as high-density residential.” The project is harmonious with the city’s guiding documents, Dittman said.

Traffic was the No. 1 issue talked about at the March 19 meeting and was the basis of the denial, said Dittman. The project is going to generate 900 additional trips a day, said Dittman. The yet-uncompleted Hess Street, now called Kirkpatrick Street, cuts through the center of the project site and was already identified as a collector street by the city’s master plan, explained Dittman. “We’re proposing to build it, at no cost to the city,” Dittman said. Dakota and Buttercup would also get improved, and the city would collect a one-time $250,000 impact fee, he said.

Traffic consultant Todd Whipple testified at length about the traffic capacity the city’s collector roads could handle. Dakota and Hess could handle 20,000 cars per day per the city plan, he said. The applicant studied the current 24-hour volume on Dakota and at the intersection of Helen and Kirkpatrick to determine its current capacity. Just under 1,000 vehicles currently use Dakota west of U.S. 95 per day, said Whipple. Per the city’s own plans almost 19,000 vehicles per day could be added to Dakota before you had to do something, he explained. Hess, which is currently called Kirkpatrick but designated Hess in the city plan, only sees 221 vehicles per day.

Council member Matt Roetter objected to the applicant’s failure to study the impact additional traffic would have on the intersection at Dakota and U.S. 95. He said he’d used that intersection for almost 40 years, and that traffic there is “horrible.” Whipple explained that in his professional judgment, having done 2,400 traffic studies, “I really don’t believe that this project will have a detrimental impact to that intersection.” Dittman pointed out that the special use permit application process did not require a traffic study.

Architect Dave Shrontz of d’Zign Group informed the council that because the project is designed to the west of Hess Street, the remainder of the 8.17 acres will become a massive commercial property. Combined with the existing commercial property fronting U.S. 95, 250 feet of viable commercial property would be open for development along U.S. 95, he said.

Panabaker said the council’s role was to allow or disallow the special use permit based on whether the applicant met the requirements in city code. Panabaker added that he’d rather have stopped much of the growth in the area that makes things busier and more hectic, but he couldn’t.

Hayden resident and Realtor Ken Holehouse spoke in support of the project. He said he remembered when Appleway was the only light on U.S. 95 and didn’t like much of the growth. However, the growth is coming and it’s inevitable, he said. He asked if the city could figure out a win-win solution.

Mary Hall lives on Kirkpatrick Street in the first house next to the development. She’s been there more than 40 years. “My house is worthless at this point. I don’t see any way of selling it,” she lamented. Already traffic from the gas station makes it nearly impossible to get anywhere safely. Her neighbor, Colleen Howerton, emphasized that the only new development “harmonious with the neighborhood” would be the type of single-family homes currently in the neighborhood. Vicki Howerton said that “Dakota has become a raceway between Reed Avenue and 95.” “It’s becoming a nightmare,” she added.

Charles Zeits rebutted Panabaker. “I can live with the existing zoning codes. What I have a hard time with is special use permits.” Carol Gardner predicted “there will definitely be an effect on all of our property values” Tom Phillips also predicted that “Our quality of life will be affected negatively without a doubt.” One of his big concerns was the loss of privacy due to apartments overlooking neighboring homes. “Our bedrooms and living room will be in full view of these apartments.”

Council member Jeri DeLange said she had plenty of concerns based on the special use permit standards of approval. Roetter referred to a May 10 letter from Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger citing public safety and traffic concerns. He also said the lack of classroom space for new students was a concern. The proposed 140-unit apartment complex “has an impact” on local schools, he said. Council member Roger Saterfiel told the audience that money means something to the council, but not compared to public input. He urged the developer to meet with the city to come up with a plan that meets the current zoning plan, then moved to deny the applicant’s appeal. The council voted to deny the appeal 3-1, with Panabaker the only vote in support.