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Proposal for a ‘sudden city’

SUNDAY, DEC. 14, 2008

Stimson seeking approval for Bonner County project

A forested tract in North Idaho could someday become Clagstone Meadows, a residential community with 1,100 luxury homes, condos and RV lots; two 18-hole golf courses; equestrian facilities; and a 150-acre natural lake.

Stimson Lumber Co. proposes the development on 12,000 acres it owns halfway between Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint. According to the numbers in an economic analysis on file at the Bonner County Planning Department, Clagstone Meadows could be worth $1.5 billion at build-out, generate $69 million in construction wages, and provide 200 ongoing service jobs.

“A sudden city is what I call it,” said Clare Marely, the county’s planning director. “It’s the largest project we’ve ever seen.”

But don’t look for earth movers at the site east of Careywood anytime soon.

“There’s no market for that development today. Absolutely not,” said Andrew Miller, Stimson’s chief executive officer. “But 15 years from now?”

There could be. And that’s why Stimson wants to lock in favorable zoning, Miller said.

When company officials first considered a golf development for the site four years ago, the parcel was zoned for five-acre lots. With code changes in Bonner County, the minimum lot size jumped to 20 acres.

Stimson is asking for conceptual approval of Clagstone Meadows. If the Bonner County planning commission grants it, Stimson will return with a request for a planned unit development that would cluster buildings on a third of the property, leaving the rest as open space.

With a PUD approved for the site, Stimson could sell the property for a higher price. “We wouldn’t develop it ourselves,” Miller said. “That’s not our area of expertise.”

Stimson’s headquarters are in Oregon, where the state’s stringent land-use laws make subdividing forestland difficult. “I think the same thing will happen in Idaho,” Miller said, although the push for larger lot sizes in rural areas is coming from counties, not the state, he noted.

Miller considers the 12,000 acres a natural for a conversion to resort development. The property is close to U.S. Highway 95. It has views and several small lakes. Some of the acreage is wetlands and open meadows, which don’t grow trees, he said.

But to win approval for Clagstone Meadows, Stimson will have to convince Bonner County that the development isn’t in conflict with one of its own land-use goals. Dense residential developments, the county’s comprehensive plan says, should be located close to cities.

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