By Lyndsie Kiebert
County commissioners upheld approval of a conditional use permit for an asphalt batch plant at a reconsideration hearing Friday.
The applicants, Interstate Concrete & Asphalt, intend to move their batch plant operations from Sandpoint to Sagle and are seeking a CUP from the county. The permit was approved by the county’s planning and zoning board Nov. 15, appealed by citizens and then approved by the Board of County Commissioners Jan. 11.
A reconsideration request filed Jan. 24 presented 11 “alleged deficiencies” in the BOCC’s approval of the batch plant application, only one of which prompted the March 22 hearing: “non-conforming use.”
The request was given a hearing partly thanks to a misunderstanding regarding the CUP tied to the gravel pit where Interstate plans to relocate the plant. The pit’s CUP was approved in 1995 but never granted due to a failure to meet additional requirements. When Planning Director Milton Ollerton and his team first heard about the 1995 permit the morning of the Jan. 11 hearing, they’d assumed it had been granted.
Ollerton said in February that the reconsideration hearing would be his department’s chance to “clarify the role that (the 1995) conditional use permit plays in (the asphalt plant) application, which is none.” Ollerton’s words rang true Friday when the planning staff recommended commissioners affirm their January ruling in favor of Interstate’s permit.
The alleged deficiency that prompted the hearing claimed that placing a batch plant within the gravel pit would expand a non-conforming use, which is against county revised code. Planner Sam Ross said the pit and batch plant are considered separate uses, therefore non-conforming use code does not apply.
Though the plant and quarry are considered separate, Ross pointed out that an added condition on Interstate’s CUP mandated the plant be operated only within an active gravel pit.
“If the gravel pit ever discontinues its operation, the batch plant must as well,” Ross said.
The pit, owned by Frank Linscott, became the subject of an extensive legal argument by the opposing group “Citizens against Linscott/Interstate Asphalt Plant.” Several members of the group testified Friday that Linscott’s pit is non-conforming and has expanded over the years. They also mentioned outstanding reclamation fees Linscott allegedly owes to the Idaho Department of Lands.
Don Banning of Sagle said that while he understood that a batch plant could be allowed in a “legally operating” gravel pit, he questioned whether the commissioners should approve the plant under the pit’s alleged current conditions.
“I don’t see how you can approve this permit for something to go in on something that is acting illegally,” Banning said.
Deputy Prosecutor Bill Wilson reminded commissioners that whether the pit is in violation or not, no official legal ruling has been made one way or the other.
“There’s been a lot of good-faith evidence presented today that there could be a zoning violation in the gravel pit,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if that is an appropriate basis to deny this permit, because … that denies the owner of the pit the due process rights that they are afforded to prove that it’s legal.”
Each commissioner voiced their agreement with that legal advice and went on to unanimously vote to uphold their prior approval of Interstate’s CUP.
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