Sanders Beach Activists Take City To Court Group Contends Home Construction Would Block Public Access
A new citizens group went to court Tuesday to try to stop construction of a house along Sanders Beach which it contends will block access to the popular gathering place.
“The City Council chose to ignore this” and forced the group to go to court, said Paul Dircksen of the Sanders Beach Preservation Association. “We have no argument with Joe Chapman - our argument is with the city.
“Our belief is that the (building) permit should never have been granted and is illegal.”
The Sanders Beach association filed suit in District Court asking a judge to stop construction of the house and rule the building permits invalid. But the hearing isn’t scheduled until Oct. 14 and two excavating machines already are at work.
Is the court date too late?
“It’s very possible,” said Roger Johnson, also of the beach association. But if the city is found to have issued the building permit in error, the taxpayers will have to reimburse Chapman.
“I see no reason why, in the face of this litigation, they don’t rescind this” building permit, Johnson said. If the court rules against the city, “there will be less damage.”
The Sanders Beach Association hinted it might even press the issue to the Supreme Court. “We’re going to go with this as far as we need to,” Johnson said.
City Attorney Jeff Jones said it is too soon to say whether the city will ask Chapman to suspend construction. Chapman did not return telephone calls Tuesday.
The city issued Chapman a permit Sept. 2 for a concrete foundation on the south side of East Lakeshore Drive. The permit for the two bedroom house has not been issued but the City Council is taking the position it cannot deny Chapman the permit.
A flood of people from surrounding neighborhoods packed a City Council meeting Sept. 16. They both decried the construction of the home and the potential end to public access to the beach.
The council took up the issue in executive session, but opted not to do anything about Chapman’s building permit or requests to purchase public access to the beach.
The Sanders Beach Association is arguing that the city violated its own ordinances by allowing the building permit. They point to two ordinances, one passed in 1928 and the other in 1965, that prohibit buildings on the south side of East Lakeshore Drive, east of 11th Street.
The city has argued that the 1982 Shoreline Ordinance repealed those earlier laws. The Beach Association disagrees but says it wouldn’t matter.
The stated purpose of the Shoreline Ordinance is to “protect, preserve and enhance the visual resources and public access” of the Coeur d’Alene shoreline, Dircksen said.
Legal documents filed in District Court also argue that Chapman’s construction plans violate a provision of the Shoreline Ordinance that says no building can be taller than 20-feet from the original elevation of the property.
Chapman, the Beach Association contends, is violating that by raising the level of his lot 5 feet and then building a 20-foot-tall house.
And once the issue of Chapman’s building permit is resolved, the Beach Association wants the city to negotiate permanent public access to the four-block strip of sand. It has been used by the public for 100 years even though many argue it’s private property.
The City Council says it’s done everything it can to get the access. The association doesn’t agree.
“If there’s an opportunity to preserve some piece of sand for everybody, you ought to attempt to go out of your way,” Dircksen said.
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