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Community Responds to Zoning Changes

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Clark Fork residents unhappy with proposal

 

The small community of Clark Fork, nestled in its comfortable valley, holds a certain charm that draws people to it, but the thick scent of change is in the air for Clark Fork residents.

Clark Fork is a place where a person’s smile and wave still matter, a place where a handshake and a person’s word are still honorable. Clark Fork is a place where you can still reach out to people and where those same people band together in a crisis. The people are finding out now about a crisis they weren’t aware existed. 

Clark Fork’s city council has proposed a 75-page zoning ordinance (Ordinance 248) that would replace the nine-page ordinance that is in effect at this time. It would seem that a majority of Clark Fork citizens are not happy about the proposal, and even less happy at not being informed of it in a way they deem proper. 

“I think when they put the ordinance together they were trying too hard and got about 80 percent too much in there,” said Bob Hays, a long-time resident of Clark Fork. Bob, who served eight years on the council himself, knows that the city council job is a thankless position. 

“You have to think about what the majority of the people want and the good things it will do for them and their livelihoods. You can’t decide to do something like this because you personally would like to see it; it’s  (all about) what the majority wants.” 

Bob also stated, “While there are some good things in this ordinance, there are too many things that deprive the townsfolk of their rights, petty things such as taking down Christmas lights when they deem the season is over, (or) coordinating colors for your houses and out buildings.” 

Bob found out about the meeting through a flier and truly thought the council would be revising what they already had, not creating “such an extravagant package that should be in retirement complexes such as Palm Springs.” 

Many Clark Fork residents are of the same mind. “I don’t feel that it was the intent of the council to hurt its residents,” newcomer Eric Cox said. “I don’t think they realize that they haven’t protected us with this ordinance. It restricts our individual growth. How can they decide how we use our property to grow as long as we stay within our setbacks?” 

Eric and Belinda Cox brought their young daughter Cassidy to Clark Fork because it is a small friendly town that they felt they could settle in and begin a new business. However, they are unable to get financing on their home because their bank wants a standard “letter to rebuild,” but the city refuses to issue it because they are commercially zoned. Eric’s financial counselor told the Clark Fork city council at the last meeting that no bank would finance a new home on commercially zoned property and that their insurance without this standard letter to rebuild would be null and void. 

Like Eric and Belinda, Katie and Jim Junget, owners of Clark Fork’s Sweet Bicycles, were told by their advisors that this ordinance would drastically effect the value of their commercial property. 

“When we bought the yellow house (on Hwy. 200) approximately five years ago, we were required to find out if the house could be rebuilt as a residence if it should be destroyed. My insurance company and mortgage company took Mayor Shields’ word that it could be rebuilt and we were given the loan. Now there is a definite question as to whether it can be rebuilt according to the way Ordinance 248 is written.” Katie says that without a letter in writing stating they can rebuild, her mortgage company has the right to demand payment in full immediately, because the use of the land will have changed. 

Katie also brings up the Comprehensive Plan, which the city quotes in Ordinance 248 section 2.0 as their authority to take this action. “The  Comprehensive Plan repeatedly states that it is intended to protect the aesthetic values and natural resources  of Clark Fork. The policy is to encourage land uses that are harmonious with existing natural resources to preserve the unique character of the city and its surroundings.” Katie feels that Clark Fork  citizens are only trying to protect their town from damaging expansion.

 Katie believes that with this ordinance, the city council is trying to change the entire complexion of the town and the result is too restricting. 

Townspeople are definitely speaking out against this ordinance. Al and Andrea Stoffels opened up the Bee Top Bistro in Clark Fork two years ago and feel the city council is way out of line. 

“Some people say that a recall would be too radical, but going from nine pages of ordinance to 75 pages of ordinance is pretty radical.” 

Al and Andrea would definitely stand behind a recall, “with the exception of (councilperson) Linda Reed, who has tried to get people involved. They should all answer for just trying such a Nazi Regime approach.” 

They are not the only citizens behind a recall. The new pastor of Clark Fork’s Baptist church says, “Perhaps the original intent was to beautify our city, but what is happening is our homes are almost not our homes anymore.” 

Pastor Paul Abbott states, “At the last meeting I almost got the feeling that the council didn’t want to specify wording of the ordinance, and then it becomes a matter of interpretation. It appears that there is an agenda someone has down the road; they just aren’t showing their cards yet.” 

Pastor Abbott also states, “The townspeople are being managed, not represented.”

Abbott, by the way, brought up a specific question at the February council meeting regarding new sign ordinances. The sign at the Baptist church currently features the name of the former pastor, which Abbott said hasn’t been changed because the church didn’t have the money to do so yet. He asked whether the church would have to pay the $300 fee stated in order to put his name on the sign. His answer was, “yes.”

There are people in Clark Fork that were born and raised here, as were their parents, and they feel the changes proposed in this new ordinance are unseemly. Duane and Sissy Snider are  two of those people. 

“The city council should have a committee comprised of various members of our community to help compose a new ordinance, consisting of some of the older residents, younger newcomers, and already established business owners, not just realtors who in the long run stand to benefit from this document.”

Sissy Snider, whose grandfather, Frank Vogel, delivered home grown vegetables to many Clark Fork homes when they were going through hard times, says, “Clark Fork is like no other place in Idaho. We’d like to keep our little town as long as we can!” 

Sissy’s husband Duane points out that while there are good points in Ordinance 248, they are trying to cram too much down our throats at once and the council should be willing to meet and explain the ordinance in more readable terms to the average citizen. 

Phyllis Brashear, a 91-year-old native, wrote to Mayor Tom Shields, “We certainly need rules and regulations, but the ones stated are absurd, as are the penalties. Have you read them?”

Most people in Clark Fork are taking a stand against the ordinance, but not the council. However, several residents felt that council members did not respond to their questions, instead allowing someone who is neither on the council, nor a resident of Clark Fork answer for them. 

Gail Brashear said “Dave Reynolds had more floor time than all our elected council members put together. I would like to have those we trusted, those we elected, speak to us and answer our question.” Reynolds, a former Clark Fork resident who now lives in Hope, was referred to by the council as their “advisor” on the new ordinances. 

Gail also feels several members of the council were a bit condescending in their tone when trying to answer questions. The majority of Clark Fork would most likely agree with Eric Cox, who said, “The city council is governing us, not representing us.” 

“In short,” said Bob Hays, "they are trying to make a town that loves what it is today, into something we will hate tomorrow.” 

Questions remain unanswered for many residents in Clark Fork, questions they are hoping the city council will take the time to review before they pass Ordinance 248, making it a law that no one is happy with, a law that most of them will resent.

See related story, "Clark Fork Looking to be the Next Sun Valley?"

 

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Author info

Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

Tagged as:

Clark Fork, Bob Hays, zoning, ordinances, Paul Abbott, Sissy Snider, Eric Cox, Jim Junget, Katie Junget, Sweet Bicycles, Al Stoeffels, Phyllis Brashear, Dave Reynolds

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