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Letters to the Editor: April 21, 2012

We are here tonight to approve...

In an astonishing display of arrogance, the Stevens County Planning and Zoning Board unanimously created a new Zoning District, S3, and immediately approved a single developer's application for sole inclusion in the new zone. 

Monday night over 50 concerned citizens and several members from the proposed development attended the meeting.  Commissioners listened politely for almost two hours as a dozen citizens voiced concern that the proposed development would harm enjoyment of their properties and was perhaps overreaching in the types of activities allowed in the new zone. Surprisingly, the commissioners asked only three questions of those testifying. The entire meeting was audio recorded.

If those in attendance had paid strict attention to the Chairman's opening remarks, we could have saved ourselves a part in the farce that was called a public hearing.

These are the words the Chairman used to open the meeting "We are here tonight to approve the establishment of the S3 zone for the applicant B&H Holdings."

Most of the uses contemplated by the new S3 zone, by statute, will require conditional use permitting and compliance with the county's comprehensive development plan.

Herein lies the rub:  The County has an unfinished and unpublished Comprehensive Development Plan sitting on a shelf. 

It would seem to the lay person that the establishment of a new zone, and conditional use permitting within that zone, must follow the completion and publication of the county's Comprehensive Development Plan which, out of democratic principles, involves all of the county's constituencies.

Without breaching the Comprehensive Plan compliance requirement, the planning and zoning board could have recommended a permitting change to the existing zone S2, allowed the developers to conduct weddings and other functions, and not upset area property owners by opening the door for a 30 RV resort on a sensitive Stevens County jewel named Perkins Lake.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approval now goes to the full County Board for ratification. 

Will the County Commissioners use better judgment in administering the affairs of all of the citizens of Stevens County?

Steve Frank, Nyroca Club, Perkins Lake

Reject proposed zoning change, protect rights of neighbors

As many now know, at last Monday's meeting, the Stevens County Planning Commission recommended approval of two zoning proposals from B&H Holdings, a local company owned by Ben Hentges, Jon Backman and two others. The first proposal was to establish an S3 Zone, allowing commercial activities, hitherto not permitted on shoreland areas. The second was to zone the old Luther Crest site on Perkins Lake within such a zone.

The Commissions' approval was given immediately at the end of the public hearing, without any discussion audible to the public. It was a decision in direct contrast to the widespread opposition expressed at the meeting against the inclusion of 30 RV campsites, which is the one factor that required the new S3 zone. It gave the appearance that the Planning Commission entered the chamber with their minds made up.

It should be noted that the language of the new S3 ordinance was selected by an advocate for B&H Holdings and meets only the minimum state requirements. No analysis of the import of such changes was performed for, or by, the Commission. What sort of zoning protection do residents of Stevens County have if the Planning Commission rubber stamps individually-designed ordinance changes without critical analysis?

There was favorable public support for that part of the proposal to continue use of existing facilities for weddings and family reunions. This type of activity is already permitted under the existing Shoreland Management Ordinance. We urge the proposers, heeding the widespread opposite from their neighboring residents, to withdraw their extensive proposal and operate under the existing ordinance. Otherwise we urge the County Commissioners to reject the S3 zoning, since the new language of the S3 removes many of the S2 restrictions that currently safeguard the rights of neighboring properties and other lakeside residents. It also leaves all shoreland areas in the County open to potential commercial development. This notion has been rejected twice in the past.

Michael and Marie O'Reilly, Old Perkins Farmhouse, Perkins Lake