By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
A district court has ruled that Bonner County unlawfully vacated a section of Camp Bay Road in April, finding that the board failed to address a conflict of interest and, according to the ruling, completed the vacation with a resolution that “barely passes muster as an adequate written decision for purposes of judicial review.”
Alfred and Jennifer Arn filed the petition for judicial review, alleging that the county commissioners failed to follow Idaho Code regarding vacation of public rights-of-way, because, according to court documents, the board “failed to issue an adequately written decision” and also failed to acknowledge a potential conflict of interest on the part of then-Bonner County Road and Bridge Director Steve Klatt, who simultaneously, according to the court, sat on the board of Green Enterprises — the entity requesting the road vacation.
Those familiar with Camp Bay Road, located in Sagle, identify the vacated portion of the right-of-way as the neighborhood’s means to access public lakefront — a fact also noted in the court ruling, which stated that Camp Bay Road is “a public road that provides access to Lake Pend Oreille.”
Project 7B, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the public on land use issues in Bonner County and that has kept a close eye on development at Camp Bay, shared in a Facebook post that “neighbors who accessed the lake at the end of this road (the right-of-way extends to the shoreline) felt the county unlawfully gifted public lands to the gated community,” which is currently being developed by Green Enterprises and M3 ID Camp Bay, LLC.
The ruling, handed down by District Judge Cynthia K.C. Meyer, stated that: “[T]he Board’s decision to find that it was in the public interest to vacate the road because ‘no public agency or neighbors have objected to the proposed vacation’ appears arbitrary in light of the conflicted director” and fails to acknowledge “public comment both in favor and against the vacation” found in the record.
The ruling goes on to call the board’s actions an “abuse of discretion.”
“Therefore the court vacates the Board’s decision and remands this issue to the Board for further proceedings,” the ruling concluded. “The court would also invite the Board to take this opportunity to issue a more developed written decision for the county record.”
The court’s review comes on the heels of a recent approval of a paving project on Camp Bay Road — a project set to be funded through the county’s Locally Funded Improvements program, which allows for property owners and interested stakeholders to offer financial assistance in order for their desired project to see priority.
On Nov. 9, Bonner County commissioners approved a memorandum of agreement with M3 ID Camp Bay, LLC under which the county will apply improvements to 2.22 miles of Camp Bay Road, with M3 footing nearly $803,000 of the bill.
The MOA states that the county will “construct a paved surface with 12 inches of base course aggregate, six inches of top course aggregate and three and a half inches of asphalt on Camp Bay Road from the intersection of Sagle Road and Camp Bay Road to the northern boundary of the property.”
Current Bonner County Road and Bridge Director Jason Topp responded to the Reader via email on Nov. 23, stating that the county plans to move forward with the paving project within the coming year.
“The MOA has not been affected,” Topp said. “Road and Bridge will continue to move forward with the project. The asphalt project will most likely take place late in the summer into fall if all goes well.”
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