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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Plans for Best Hill get bad marks

Jeffery Coulter stands near Best Hill in Coeur d'Alene on Wednesday. He is a member of the Best Hill Coalition, a group raising questions about the possible subdivision in the area. 
 (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

A 35-lot subdivision proposed for the base of Coeur d’Alene’s Best Hill is prompting strong protests from neighbors.

The Nettleton Hills project encompasses 30 acres on the eastern edge of the city at the end of Best Avenue. The development company, Halko LLC, is asking the city to annex the project into city limits.

The land lies below tall, forested ridges and is covered by grass and a few ponderosa pines. JefferyCoulter, who helped form the Best Hill Coalition to oppose the project, said it would cause the city to further invade prime recreation and wildlife habitat in the Nettleton Gulch area. The subdivision also violates a protective covenant governing the tract, Coulter said. A recent amendment to the covenant states that only one home is allowed for every two acres.

“It’s too soon in my opinion to start gobbling up all these open spaces and develop them into cookie cutter developments,” Coulter said. “You need to keep these areas for the future.”

William Radobenko, a Dalton Gardens developer listed as a managing member of Halko, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Steven Wetzel, the attorney listed on the company’s charter as its legal agent, did not return a phone call.

Although the project has only four lots on the base of Best Hill – the rest are in the grassy meadow – one of the partners in the development, Hallmark Homes, owns an additional 93 acres in the area. The current plans include a “stubbed-out” road that leads up Best Hill. Coulter worries the road indicates future plans to develop farther up the hill.

An attorney for the Best Hill Coalition sent a letter to the developer and the city last week warning the project was in violation of the property’s protective conditions, covenants and restrictions. Warren Wilson, Coeur d’Alene’s deputy city attorney, said the city is obliged to hold a hearing to consider the request to annex the land and approve the project. It’s not the city’s job to sort out alleged violations of protective covenants, Wilson added.

“We don’t really have a role in enforcing that,” he said. “That’s what courts are for.”

Coulter said the former owner of the property agreed in 1986 to a protective covenant that lasts 30 years. It was one of eight properties included under the Nettleton Estates property owners’ contract. Recently, seven new property owners in the Nettleton Gulch area signed onto the agreement. On Aug. 22, 12 of the 15 property owners covered by the covenants agreed to an amendment that calls for only one home for every two acres, regardless of zoning laws set forth by the city or county.

The developer’s subdivision application asks the city to zone the property to allow up to five homes per acre.

Coulter said he and about 65 other members of the Best Hill Coalition will continue to fight the current subdivision plans. The group has already launched a Web site and has put up protest signs.

Coeur d’Alene’s planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing to consider the Nettleton Hills project at its 5:30 p.m. meeting Sept. 27. If the city approves the project, Coulter said he expects the fight to continue in court.

“If you’re going to rattle your saber, you’ve got to be willing to take it out of its scabbard,” Coulter said.