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Chateau de Loire proposal resurfaces

Two of Kootenai County’s most controversial developments are back with slight changes, meaning the public soon will be able to comment on plans for a French-themed golf retreat and more homes on Canfield Mountain.

Both developments, which have sparked public outcry in the last few years, have resurfaced as a result of mediated agreements with the county.

Las Vegas-based Kirk-Hughes Development on Friday filed new plans for Chateau de Loire that still include an 18-hole golf course overlooking Moscow Bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The revised plans also address the county’s concern about increased traffic on state Highway 97.

To reduce traffic, the company has done away with public commercial features such as a convenience store, and boutique shops and cafes. Kirk-Hughes Development also agrees to build a permanent underpass or overpass across Highway 97, which bisects the nearly 600-acre former Flying Arrow Ranch property.

The new plan would increase the number of residential units in the private, gated project to no more than 500, a mix of about 270 houses and 230 condos. That’s 25 more units than in the original 2005 proposal.

On Thursday, Marvin Erickson submitted new plans for West Canfield, which would put 35 homes on the face of the landmark Coeur d’Alene hillside. The proposed houses are next to Erickson’s home and would use the same Z-shaped road up the face of Canfield that gained him notoriety and upset the public for allegedly scarring the hillside.

That’s nine fewer homes than Erickson proposed in 2003.

As part of the mediation agreement, the county will review Erickson’s proposal under subdivision rules in place in 2003, not the current version. Erickson argued the new rules would make it more difficult and expensive to get the housing development approved.

Scott Poorman, Erickson’s attorney, didn’t return phone calls from The Spokesman-Review on Monday.

If West Canfield is approved, Erickson promises to provide a public hiking trail and parking lot so residents will have access to the mountain for recreation. The idea is outlined in an analysis of the Dalton Gardens comprehensive plan. A portion of the property is within the Dalton Gardens area of city impact, meaning the city has the ability to make recommendations to the county.

In the analysis, Erickson also agrees to help pay for a roundabout at Fourth Street and Hanley Avenue. A traffic impact study concluded that the intersection already has heavy traffic. Lakes Highway District still has concerns that the development’s road is too steep and there isn’t adequate turnaround space for emergency vehicles or a defined emergency exit route.

In addition to county approval, Erickson has asked Dalton Gardens for a driveway permit and is contesting whether it needs a zone change for the land where the development’s water well is located.

Erickson’s development was revived after an October mediation agreement with the Idaho Supreme Court. Erickson sued the county, arguing that the planning director illegally threw out his application for what was then called Erickson Estates.

The first public hearing is expected in May.

In January, Kirk-Hughes Development reached an agreement with the county allowing the company to file a new plan for Chateau de Loire and receive an expedited public hearing schedule.

A county hearing examiner is scheduled to have a public hearing on that proposal April 17.

In exchange, the company dropped a court appeal of the county’s denial to 1st District Court, which alleged the commission’s action was discriminatory and unsupported.

The mediation settlement calls for developers to mitigate the increased traffic on Highway 97. Traffic concerns were a primary reason the county commission rejected the initial proposal, saying the highway can’t handle more traffic and that the project doesn’t fit in with the rural area reserved for timberland.

Attorney Kacey Wall, who represents Kirk-Hughes Development, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment on Monday. In a previous interview, Wall said the county’s initial denial didn’t clearly state why the commission opposed the project. She said the agreement clears up that uncertainty and will allow the company to craft a plan that responds to the county’s concerns.

The new application was made the same day Neighbors for Responsible Growth asked the county for a one-year moratorium on building on the east side of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The neighborhood group, which opposed Chateau de Loire and other developments on the east side, thinks the timeout would give the county a chance to complete studies that will show how much growth the area, including Highway 97, can handle.

The county commission hasn’t yet decided whether to discuss the proposal.

Neighbors for Responsible Growth spokeswoman Bev Twillmann said she hasn’t seen the new Chateau de Loire proposal but doesn’t think much has changed – except there is even more traffic on Highway 97 and more opposition to large developments in the rural area.

“We still don’t want castles in North Idaho,” Twillmann said about the French castle-themed retreat.