August 21, 2007 in Idaho

Planner ordered to halt project

Staff writer
 

Kootenai County issued a stop-work order Friday on a county planning employee’s development south of Post Falls because an engineer hadn’t reviewed the road construction.

The county Planning and Building Department received complaints that the road to Sandy and Gary Young’s Greenridge development off Greensferry Road was too steep and allegedly causing erosion problems.

Sandy Young is a county planner who often issues red tags to county property owners for similar site disturbance problems. Her husband, Gary Young, is the former Post Falls planning director who is now working as a contract planner for Kirk-Hughes Development, which is proposing the controversial Chateau de Loire golf retreat on the east side of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Sandy Young said Monday that the couple has hired Inland Northwest Consultants and that the engineering plan should be complete by Wednesday. The road, which widened an existing logging road accessing the 10 lots that overlook Cougar Gulch, is complete and crews started spraying hydroseed Monday.

Yet some members of a watchdog group are calling for Young’s resignation, arguing she is biased and allows developers to continually break county development rules.

“She practices selective enforcement,” said Bev Twillmann of Neighbors for Responsible Growth. “She’s protecting developers while we get harassed for ridiculous things.”

In November 2004, Young ordered Twillmann to stop work on the construction of her driveway because of erosion problems.

Young said that Twillmann “continues to excel at passing along misinformation.”

This isn’t the first time Twillmann and Young’s neighbors have questioned Young’s work.

The county contracted with Ruen-Yeager to review the Greenridge development after it was publicized that in July 2006 a planner supervised by Young signed the site-disturbance permit for the project.

Planning Director Scott Clark said that issue has been resolved and the county is treating Young like any other applicant. Clark is personally overseeing the Greenridge permits and approvals.

Young said that former Planning Director Rand Wichman was aware of her previous site disturbance application, as was interim Director Cheri Howell, and that neither had a problem with the permit.

Young did a risk assessment, with the approval of Wichman, and determined that her proposed road to Greenridge wasn’t classified as “high risk” and didn’t need an engineering plan.

Ruen-Yeager recently disagreed and called for an engineering plan, which resulted in Friday’s stop-work order. Young alleges that the company wrongly characterized it as a new road and a new subdivision, both of which require review by an engineer.

Young said the property already had been divided into 10 lots in the 1980s so it didn’t have to go through the county’s formal subdivision process.

Neighbor Holly Kincaid, whose parents sold the Youngs the property, has complained about the road construction and erosion problems for more than a year.

She declined to comment Monday because she filed a lawsuit in 1st District Court against the Youngs and their hired excavator in September.

The case, which alleges that the Youngs didn’t have an easement to widen the road, goes to a jury in January.

Kincaid also alleges that the Youngs illegally removed timber on her property to build the road.

Young always has disputed that claim and argued she and her husband have the proper easement.

“We want a jury to sort it out so we have some kind of finality,” she said.

Kincaid got Twillmann involved after the county wouldn’t listen to her complaints.

Young said she doesn’t know why she has become a target for these groups and in hindsight wouldn’t have done anything different.

“They just have venom toward anyone who is doing anything development-wise,” Young said.

Greenridge, where lots went on the market in July, is billed as North Idaho’s first “green-standard” development. That means lot buyers will have to build energy-efficient and environmentally sound homes.

That’s why Young said it’s odd they are accused of harming the environment.

Twillmann argues that it isn’t a green development and it’s just like any other project so easily approved in Kootenai County.

“I have no faith at all in that department,” she said.


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