By Cameron Rasmusson
Local business growth is usually a good thing, but not everyone is happy with Alpine Cedar sawmill’s planned expansion.
Home and business owners are in the Shingle Mill Road area are clashing over the mill’s business plans, which most contentiously would expand hours of operation to between 6 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. The expansion would also add several buildings onto business property. With discord heating up over the issue, county commissioners plan to visit the business site for themselves within the next several weeks. Afterward, they will determine whether or not to allow the expansion.
The disagreement has prompted community members to draw battle lines, with strong support for both sides. Opponents say the noise, lighting, traffic, pollutants and other factors continuing into late hours will hurt quality of life and reduce property values. Furthermore, they say the the expansion of the business’ conditional use permit, which the Bonner County Planning and Zoning Commission approved in August, escalates operations to an intolerable level.
“The sawmill activity in the last year or so has crossed a threshold where mill operations are adversely affecting the rural quality of life and peace of mind,” said Robert Betts in his oral testimony.
Expansion supporters argue the negative impacts to the expansion will be minimal. The mill has always taken pains to not only meet but improve upon their operational limitations and be a good community presence. Because of their inability to run at least two shifts, however, mill representatives said they have been forced to turn down major national contracts.
“More importantly, it’s limiting our ability to create high-paying jobs,” said Katie Bradish in her testimony.