Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson has forwarded a request to review the Sandpoint City Council’s vote in favor of a new height ordinance to the Idaho attorney general.
A group of citizens concerned about the vote, and the possible conflict of interest with two council members, had asked Robinson to look into the matter and whether it was legal for the full council to vote on the issue.
On May 18, the council voted 4-3, with Mayor Ray Miller breaking a tie, to approve a new ordinance that would allow developers to apply for a conditional use permit to construct buildings taller than the current 45-foot height limit.
The conditional use permit process would be allowed in only two defined areas of downtown – on the south end of Fifth Street and in the vicinity of the former Louisiana Pacific sawmill.
Debate over the new ordinance has been in the context of the Panhandle State Bank’s plans to build a four-story building, with an atrium and a subterranean parking garage, at the site of Harold’s IGA. The bank wants to consolidate its headquarters at the site and provide residential condominiums and penthouses on the upper two floors, but the proposed building is taller than 45 feet.
Some residents objected to two council members participating in the vote, because of their ties to Panhandle State Bank. Councilman Chuck Spickelmire’s wife works for the bank and Councilwoman Cindy Elliott works for the law firm that represents the bank.
Both Elliott and Spickelmire voted in favor of the ordinance.
Robinson forwarded the request for a review and investigation to the attorney general because, he explained in a letter dated June 1, his office has its own conflict of interest issues. Spickelmire is the public works director for the county and one of Robinson’s deputy prosecuting attorneys is Elliott’s husband.
Bob Cooper, the attorney general’s spokesman, said the office had received the letter but had not had time to review it or decide how to proceed.
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