A lakefront property owner plans to build a two-bedroom home along the narrow stretch of grass between East Lakeshore Drive and popular Sanders Beach.
The proposal threatens to spark a new feud over access to the swimming and sun-bathing spot, with neighbors fearing more development will follow.
After a year of battling with city officials, restaurant owner Joe Chapman is awaiting final approval for the 2,300-square-foot structure on the south side of the street.
He also has submitted plans to tear down his house across the street to the north and replace it with a duplex.
Both developments would be firsts along the short strip of expensive homes often referred to as Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Gold Coast.
Chapman and his attorney, Ed Anson, did not return telephone calls Tuesday.
Angry neighbors see the plan as a step toward eliminating public use of one of the lake’s few remaining undeveloped beaches.
“I kind of see the writing on the wall,” said Nick Schilling, who lives a few blocks away. “As soon as you have one house there, then the race is on and Sanders Beach is lost.”
Several hundred visitors line the beach on sunny weekend days during July and August.
East Lakeshore homeowners have battled with the city and other residents for years over the use of Sanders Beach.
The homeowners contend they own land on both sides of the road stretching out into the water, including the beach.
In 1992, homeowners Roland and Beatrice Almgren sparked a neighborhood war when they planted a “no trespassing” sign on the beach and had a sun-bather arrested.
City council members have refused to condemn or buy the beach, arguing that the costs would be prohibitive and homeowners don’t want to sell.
Homeowners haven’t made any recent attempts to boot visitors from the sandy area, but city attorney Jeff Jones said ownership of the beach remains unresolved.
The issue returned to the forefront in 1996, when Chapman proposed building condominiums on land between the road and the water. City planning commissioners urged the City Council to buy or lease the beach, but no one was willing to take on the controversy.
After his plans were shot down late last year, Chapman - who owns Henry’s restaurant and Chapman Design - returned with his latest proposal.
City officials maintain Chapman’s ownership of the land above the beach is not in dispute, and say he has met all the requirements.
“We’re only waiting on some technical matters,” said Rodger Lewerenz, the city’s public works director.
Chapman’s proposed one-story home would be 84 feet by 28 feet. It would be about 13 feet high and include reconstruction of a seawall.
It’s not clear whether the house would limit access to the beach. Lewerenz said it appears there would still be about 48 feet of sand between Chapman’s seawall and the summer water level.
But neighbors remain nervous.
Even if Chapman doesn’t fence his property to the water’s edge, he may later, and that could block access to the rest of the beach, they said. Neighbors also are angry that the city has made no effort to solve the problem.
“Once you have something built there, there’s no turning back,” Schilling said. “The dark side is, I think the city would like to see that land generating tax revenue rather than have to pay people to manage it right.”
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