April 25, 2007 in Idaho

Chateau de Loire developers ask for court hearing on delays

Staff writer

The developers of a proposed French-themed golf retreat allege Kootenai County broke a mediated agreement over the development schedule, and on Tuesday they asked a judge for an emergency court hearing.

Kirk-Hughes Development argues the county violated the agreement by delaying until July the first public hearing on Chateau de Loire, a proposed 18-hole golf course along with 500 homes and condos and a community dock on the east side of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The county maintains Chateau de Loire remains on a fast-track schedule as called for in the mediation agreement, even though the May 31 public hearing was moved to July. Without the agreement, county attorney John Cafferty said the county would have scheduled the hearing for September.

“We are doing everything we can for them,” Cafferty said. “It’s our belief we are in compliance.”

The Las Vegas development company says the delay means the county can’t decide by the agreed Sept. 1 deadline whether to approve the multimillion-dollar project. In addition, the postponement will cost the company an extra $135,000 in expenses ranging from engineering services to a $25,000 forfeited consulting fee.

Coeur d’Alene attorney Kacey Wall, who represents the company, said Tuesday’s filing is an attempt to keep the May 31 hearing date.

First District Court Judge John Luster needs to have a court hearing before May 1 in order for the county to have time to advertise the May 31 public hearing, Wall said.

“It’s not to be antagonistic,” she said.

Last week the county postponed the public hearing until July 19 so the newly hired planning director has time to take charge.

The new director, Scott Clark, starts May 1. His hiring ends the potential conflict of interest that interim Planning Director Cheri Howell had with the project. Howell worked for Kirk-Hughes Development as a planner before she became a county employee.

The county terminated its contract Friday with private planning consultant Scott Brown, who was hired to handle the Chateau de Loire application to avoid the conflict.

The county wants the new director to oversee the application to save additional consulting fees.

In court documents, Wall argued that the county should have maintained its contract with Brown so he could have handled the case while the new director got adjusted.

Wall wrote that the county is “punishing” the development company, and there are no explanations for the county’s actions “other than it simply does not want to approve” the project.

Cafferty pointed out that Kirk-Hughes Development was unsatisfied with Brown’s work and questioned why they would want his contract extended.

The company took issue with Brown’s assessment that the Chateau de Loire application was incomplete.

In a March 19 letter to Cafferty, the development’s project manager called Brown an “obstructionist” who was unyielding and driving up the cost of the project. Three days later, the project manager, Gary Young, wrote another letter apologizing and saying he no longer believed Brown was intentionally causing difficulties.

The company then asked the county to postpone the initial April 19 public hearing. The company said it needed more time to prepare the application, answer concerns raised by government agencies and give other agencies such as the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality more time to comment. That’s when the county moved the hearing to May 31.

The request came the day after a watchdog group demanded that the county cancel the public hearing, arguing the application was incomplete and that the public couldn’t comment because crucial government agencies hadn’t had time to respond.

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