REALLY!! By Lee Zimmer
On March 24, 2015 the Coeur d’Alene Press published an article written by David Cole entitled “Kootenai County seeks input”. The “input” the article is talking about, is seeking public input on a draft revision of the existing land-use and development codes.
It is through this revision process that both of our new commissioners, David Stewart and Marc Eberlein, who are “private property rights advocates”, hope to change the existing land-use and development codes to favor some land developers, some homebuilders, and some lake front landowners.
For example, and I am quoting from this CDA Press article, “the 25-foot ‘undisturbed natural vegetation buffer’ currently required along waterfront lots has been eliminated,” county officials said. In defense of this action Commissioner Marc Eberlein said, “there is no scientific evidence that proves such a buffer ‘improves’ water quality.” REALLY!!
It is evident that Mr. Eberlein did not bother to inquire about the health of our lakes and rivers before endorsing the elimination of this land-use code, and making such an outlandish statement in defense of his actions. Perhaps he was not aware that, “Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, Hauser Lake, Hayden Lake, Fernan Lake, Black Lake, Coeur d’Alene Lake, the Spokane River and the Coeur d’Alene River are all listed on the EPA’s 303(d) List of impaired water bodies.” (KEA Advocates for Improved Shoreline Protections, posted on Sunday, January 26th, 2014)
Perhaps he is unaware that, “Residential and non-residential construction and activity have and do contribute nutrients through site disturbance, poorly maintained septic systems, and nutrient enriched surface run off (from things like lawn fertilizers). This has led to deteriorated water quality conditions in our lakes, the effects of which are best seen in the nearshore waters. The results of increased nutrient loading is most visible on our smaller lakes where the water has turned murky, bays have become weed filled and unwanted algae blooms occur regularly. Fernan Lake, Hayden Lake and Hauser Lake have all experienced toxic blue green algae blooms over the last several years. Blue green algae makes the water unsafe to swim in or to utilize for drinking water.” (KEA Advocates for Improved Shoreline Protections, posted on Sunday, January 26th, 2014)
Perhaps he is unaware that, “The current ordinance specifies a 25 foot no disturbance shoreline zone which has proven to be unsuccessful in its purpose of water quality protection due largely to the lack of enforcement. Only 25% of Lake Coeur d’Alene’s shoreline remains undisturbed vegetation and at one time the Hayden Lake Recreation and Sewer District had requested that they take over permitting and enforcement from the county due to a litany of noncompliance.” (KEA Advocates for Improved Shoreline Protections, posted on Sunday, January 26th, 2014)
Perhaps Commissioner Eberlein and Commissioner Stewart need to publically declare exactly whose private property rights they are protecting. Perhaps they can clarify for us under what circumstances individual property rights cease, if indeed they do at all.
Using the example above, suppose I am a lake front property owner. Don’t I have the right to develop my property right down to the water’s edge? What if by doing so I destroy the 25 foot natural vegetative buffer at the water’s edge? What if all my waterfront neighbors choose to do the same thing, and by our individual actions we help contribute to the pollution of the lake to the extent that it becomes un-usable to the entire community? Do I bare any responsibility to the community just because I exercised my individual private property rights?
Dismissing the 25 foot natural vegetative buffer land-use ordinance for the benefit of a few is irresponsible, and unless that deleted land-use code is site specific it will apply to all of our lakes and waterways.
I encourage you to read the full article, “KEA Advocates for Improved Shoreline Protections, posted on Sunday, January 26th, 2014” http://kealliance.org/2014/01/26/kea-advocates-for-improved-shoreline-protections/
In closing, let me say that just about every citizen of Kootenai County, including myself, has some idea of what the term “Individual Property Rights” means. However, what we need to decide ultimately is the ethical extent of these rights as it pertains to the future of our county, and the wellbeing of our neighbors.