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Blackwell Island Proposal Resurfaces Once Again, City Council Is Asked To Approve Rv Park Amid Threat Of Lawsuit

A proposed 200-unit RV park on Blackwell Island once again is before the Coeur d’Alene City Council.

And opponents still insist that the developer’s plans, which include dredging the Spokane River, pose a health and safety threat. The Rural Kootenai Organization says it’ll revive a lawsuit against the city if the council approves the development next week.

“I think that it’s got some real safety problems,” said Gertrude Hanson, an opponent of the development. “Not only toxicity, but highway safety problems. I can’t imagine having RVs and boats pulling in there. It’s just not very safe.”

Developer Mark Hall first proposed the 40-acre development in 1995. It was approved by the city planning commission that fall, but the Rural Kootenai Organization promptly sued the city.

The group alleged that Coeur d’Alene officials met with developers behind closed doors to approve key provisions before the land was annexed by the city.

City Council members rejected the organization’s appeal earlier this year and gave Hall’s development the green light. But a month later, a judge ruled against the city in district court.

The court quashed the project, saying the planning commission erred by approving the project before the land had been annexed by the city. The annexation was not overturned, but Hall’s project was sent back to the planning commission.

“The way I see it, the judge has made annexation very difficult,” Hall said.

Last month, the planning commission rejected Hall’s plans. Commission members worried that dredging the channel could disturb heavy metal deposits, posing a health threat. Hall proposes to dredge the river and dump the sediment on Blackwell Island in order to bring the RV site up to the 100-year floodplain.

Chuck Sheroke, the Rural Kootenai Organization’s lawyer, said its lawsuit is on hold pending the outcome of the City Council meeting.

If the council supports Hall’s appeal, Sheroke said, the lawsuit would most likely be renewed.

Chuck Hosack, the city’s attorney, conceded that the organization’s lawsuit could render a council decision on Hall’s development meaningless.

That’s why the city is still considering filing an appeal with the Idaho Supreme Court protesting the district court decision.

Rural Kootenai Organization members and other opponents of the development remain convinced the project threatens Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River, which flows by Blackwell Island.

Meanwhile, Hall said he is simply trying to get back to where he was before the district court ruling - back to the point where he can go ahead with the RV park.

He contends the planning commission turned him down the second time because of concerns over dredging the channel - something he said falls under state jurisdiction, not the commission or the city of Coeur d’Alene.

“The City Council has granted this before,” Hall said, “so I’m hopeful they’ll do it again.”

, DataTimes