Recently, Bonner County commissioners deferred yet again a decision on the Clagstone Meadows development proposed for the southern end of the county. The county’s planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the proposal—the largest planned unit development in the county’s history—after 27 hours of review and discussion last August, and the county commission has already put 16 hours of review into it.
So what’s the holdup?
Developers will justifiably point out that a planned unit development (PUD) like Clagstone has a lot of advantages over development that occurs in bits and pieces over time. The area could instead randomly develop into small ranchettes, with little thought among them for open space, wetlands preservation, wildlife habitat, or water quality. A PUD, instead, clusters the housing on portions of the land while preserving a large amount of open space. Clagstone Meadows would have 1200 residential units on some 12,000 acres, but since the housing is focused in a small portion of the land, more than 10,000 acres of that would remain as open space and managed timberland.
The county’s planning and zoning commission, in recommending approval, came up with 40 pages of conditions, and developers WHPacific have carefully addressed concerns that have arisen about water, wildlife, and traffic. In addition, for now they’re only asking for a conceptual approval—each phase of the development will be subject to additional scrutiny before actual construction may proceed. And even that would not happen until there’s evidence of a market returning for such a development.
So what’s the beef?
Even if all the environmental and developmental issues could be addressed, and even though the logic of a PUD makes sense for addressing such issues, it’s hard to get past the idea of putting such a large development in an area that many currently value for its nowhereness. Bonner County’s comprehensive plan directs such density to the edges of already-developed areas and reflects a desire to retain the rural character of the area. Clagstone Meadows would be the second-largest city north of Coeur d’Alene.
The arrival of what has been called a “sudden city” appears not to be sitting well with locals, who are evidently not city folk, sudden or otherwise. So the hearings may continue for a while. They are scheduled to continue November 17.