Cougar Bay developers have won a round in Kootenai County District Court but already face another lawsuit over their proposed $2.2 million subdivision.
Judge James R. Michaud ruled last week against the Rural Kootenai Organization, which has opposed the Cougar Bay development since 1993. The organization sued Kootenai County commissioners, alleging they had broken the law when they approved the final plat for the Cougar Bay subdivision.
The organization wasn’t surprised at the loss.
“It was the weakest of our cases,” said Denise Clark, president of the group.
The Rural Kootenai Organization hasn’t met to discuss whether to appeal Michaud’s ruling. But Clark says she doubts the group will continue to push that suit.
However, the organization has filed another lawsuit in District Court challenging the commissioners’ decision to give McCormack Properties, developer of Cougar Bay, more time to start work on the subdivision.
“The extension request was filed too late,” Clark said. “So we are still in business.”
Two weeks ago, county commissioners told McCormack Properties that it doesn’t have to start work on the 92-lot subdivision until litigation is resolved. Once the suits are settled, the developer will have six years to complete all three phases of the housing development.
The first phase was supposed to have been completed early this year.
Rural Kootenai Organization has another suit pending before the Idaho Supreme Court challenging the legality of the subdivision. A ruling is expected soon.
Meanwhile, Mike McCormack, owner of the development company, said he is pleased with the recent District Court ruling.
“Each decision gets us closer to the point where we can convince our investors and lenders to proceed,” McCormack said. “I think the county commissioners should be pleased the courts have upheld the process” for approving subdivisions, he added.
McCormack said he expects the Supreme Court, with Michaud’s decision in hand, to act soon. The high court ruling - not the most recent appeal - controls when work begins.
“If the Supreme Court decision is favorable or doesn’t oppose us, it gives us the comfort to go ahead,” McCormack said.
That could mean breaking ground as soon as this summer.
Meanwhile, appeals and lawsuits by the Rural Kootenai Organization probably will continue, he said.
“Eventually, if we win all the suits, I wonder what sort of retribution we have against the people who have held us up and cost us this kind of money,” McCormack said.
“It’s kind of a black stain on the county” because it gives other developers the impression that they could be held up by similar litigation, he said.