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Kootenai rejects luxury resort

Fri., Dec. 7, 2007, midnight

Kootenai County’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to deny a Nevada developer’s request to build a French-themed luxury golf development overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene.

It was the second time in two years that commissioners said no to the Chateau de Loire project.

“I don’t feel this would fit into the area,” said Rick Currie, commission chairman.

Las Vegas-based Kirk Hughes Development talked “about how pretty this thing would be and whatnot,” according to Currie, but left unanswered critical questions about traffic, sewage treatment and fire protection.

Chateau de Loire would have included 500 homes, an 18-hole golf course, spa, 28-slip dock and amphitheater. The former cattle ranch near Moscow Bay would have become a mountain-style village, complete with a square surrounded by sidewalk cafes and bakeries, with condos in the upper stories. The land currently has restricted residential and rural zoning.

“It would be a very nice development,” said Commissioner Todd Tondee. “I’m not sure this is the place for it.”

The decision was a victory for neighborhood groups who opposed the project, saying it was too much development for a sensitive natural area.

“As citizens, we have a right to protect Idaho’s legacy, its beauty,” said Janine Lilja, a member of Neighbors for Responsible Growth.

Developer Geraldine Kirk Hughes, meanwhile, said her company will consider filing a lawsuit over the denial.

“In all probability, that’s where we will be going,” she said after the meeting.

In voting down the project, Currie, Tondee and Commissioner Rich Piazza upheld the opinion of county Hearing Examiner Lisa Key, who recommended denial of the project in a 28-page report this fall. She said the application needed more details about how the developer would build on steep slopes, mitigate wetlands and ensure roads are safe for emergency vehicles.

Commissioners also expressed concern about additional traffic on narrow, winding state Highway 97, which bisects the property. “I think there’s entirely too many questions that have to be answered,” Currie said.

Kirk Hughes disagreed, saying many of the issues were addressed in comprehensive reports provided to the county. “I think the process in Kootenai County is flawed,” she said.

After an earlier Chateau plan was rejected by the commission in 2006, the company appealed the decision to 1st District Court, alleging the commission’s action was discriminatory and unsupported.

That appeal was put on hold while the two parties went through mediation. Kirk Hughes said her company will revive it.

About 40 people attended Thursday’s meeting.

Chateau de Loire is one of several large golf developments proposed or under construction on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The projects are attracting attention from citizen groups concerned about rapid conversion of open space to high-end residential development.

Neighbors for Responsible Growth formed in 2005 to oppose the Chateau project. Spokeswoman Bev Twillmann said she was pleased to see the commissioners take a decisive stand.

“The area is not conducive to large-scale development like that,” she said. “We can’t handle it. We are a rural community.”

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