Zone change for gas station at Dufort and Vay roads denied

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

Bonner County commissioners ultimately struck down a Comprehensive Plan Map amendment and zone change in June that would have paved the way for a gas station and other amenities at the intersection of Dufort and Vay roads. After eight hours of comment and deliberation over two public hearings (not to mention the Planning and Zoning hearings that took place preceding the BOCC hearings), commissioners ultimately ruled that the proposal was not in alignment with the county’s Comprehensive Plan and zoning code.

A conceptual drawing of the proposed gas station at Dufort and Vay roads, for which property owners requested a zone change the county denied June 26. Image courtesy of project proposal files via Bonner County Planning.

Property owners Sean and Laura Hammond applied for a zone change from Rural-5 to Rural Service Center on about 12 acres just south of Willow Bay Resort last year. The board — at the time comprising former-Commissioners Dan McDonald and Jeff Connolly — voted unanimously Dec. 21 to remand the file back to the Planning Department and encouraged the Hammonds to apply for the Comp Plan Map amendment, which the Hammonds did ultimately file, requesting a change on their property from Rural Residential to Neighborhood Commercial. A site plan for the area shows intentions for a gas station, convenience store, boat storage and five one-acre residential lots.

While the board — now consisting of Commissioners Asia Williams and Luke Omodt, as well as Steve Bradshaw, who voted to send the Hammond’s zone change request back to Planning last year — denied the Comp Plan amendment request on June 14, the lengthy hearing was continued after four hours to June 26, during which the board denied the zone change.

During the June 26 hearing, about a dozen community members commented in favor of the zone change and gas station plan, while more than 40 shared comments in opposition. Those against the proposed change expressed concerns about increased traffic, noise, crime, water contamination and fuel spills. Many pointed to existing options for gas and convenience items nearby at the Vay Market, as well as in Priest River and Sagle.

During rebuttal, Sean Hammond called the hearings an “enlightening experience learning so much about myself from people that I’ve never met.”

“I thought I was doing it legally, but I keep hearing all kinds of different stories. I felt like I was being chastised for following the set of rules that was set in front of me,” he continued. “There is nothing we are doing here that is detrimental. It is nothing but a benefit for the entire community and the thousands of people that are in and out of there.”

Bradshaw was the first of the commissioners to comment during deliberation, expressing his commitment to private property rights and stating: “I don’t know how a more appropriate spot could be picked.”

Omodt and Williams, on the other hand, pointed out that the Hammonds knew what the property was zoned when it was purchased. Williams said the file requested what she believed to be “spot zoning” — the act of changing the zoning of a particular property despite it not being in line with existing standards for the area.

Bradshaw ultimately aligned his vote with the other two commissioners, and the board unanimously denied the zone change.

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