HiTest plan needs rigorous scrutiny, transparency

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Our firm represents Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter, including Pend Oreille County, Wash., and Bonner County, Idaho, residents and landowners located adjacent to or in the immediate vicinity of the industrial facility proposed by HiTest Sands and/or HiTest Silicon.

As you are aware, the subject property is currently zone as Public Lands (PL). The PL zoning designation does not allow for industrial use. As a result, we understand that HiTest is seeking to rezone the property. We further understand that a conditional use permit will be pursued to seek industrial use of the potentially rezoned property. You have previously confirmed both the rezone and the conditional use permit requirements for HiTest, as reflected in the minutes of the Nov. 14, 2017, Planning Commission meeting.

We have the following questions, concerns and requests regarding the procedures to be followed by the county in processing these applications: Rezone status — We understand that HiTest’s rezone request may be placed on the agenda for the commission’s Jan. 9. 2018, meeting. Please confirm whether this is the case. If so, please indicate whether a rezone application has in fact been filed by or on behalf of HiTest, or when an application is expected to be filed.

We are sure you understand the importance of allowing interest parties sufficient time and notice to review the rezone application prior to hearing. While HiTest may expect to receive expedited consideration for its rezone request, due process requires that the application not receive special treatment. The designation of the project as one of Statewide Significance — which is of questionable value given the significant changes that have occurred to the proposed project and its location since the designation was made — does not serve to modify the federal or state constitutions, or any applicable statutes, regulations or common law. They must all be complied with and due process must be provided.

Hearing venue — We request that any hearings on the HiTest rezone requested and related proceedings be held in Newport — the city closest in proximity to the proposed facility — rather than in Cusick or some other location. Newport is obviously the most convenient venue for the majority of the interested parties.

Consideration of permit processing into Class 4 — The permit processing for HiTest’s conditional use permit application should be consolidated with processing of the rezone application, including integrated public hearings, unified comment periods and concurrent reviews, as provided in the Pend Oreille County development regulations.

Since the highest-class review classification is for the rezone request (Class 4), that classification must be assigned to the consolidated permit application, thereby requiring the permit application package (rezone and conditional use) to be heard by the commission and decided by county commissioners, as required by Pend Oreille County development regulations. This is a critical procedural consideration that must be adhered to for consolidated permit application processing.

Individualized rezone review — There has been some suggestion that HiTest’s application for rezone may be lumped into a blanket rezone package for several properties which are currently zoned PL and that perhaps this may be accomplished with no public process. We urge the county not to pursue this highly questionable course of action, which is sure to be subject to legal challenge.

Aside from the obvious fairness question that would raise (as recognized during the Nov. 14 planning commission meeting), there are also practical and legal concerns. A rezone application requires individualized consideration of each specific parcel of land. Comments, recommendations and findings, all focused on an individual parcel, are required to be considered by the county commissioners. Among other things, this is necessary to fulfill the purpose of determining whether the particular proposed rezone is consistent with the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan and the intent of the development regulations

Such a determination would not be possible if a number of PL zoning designations are lumped together and considered for rezone in a blanket fashion. Consolidated processing of the HiTest applications (rezone and conditional use) would further preclude blanket rezoning.

Finally, it is beyond dispute that a site-specific rezone — such as the one requested by HiTest — requires Class 4 review by the planning commission and a decision by the board of county commissioners, along with the associated public process.

We appreciate your consideration of these questions, concerns and requests on behalf of CANSS and its members, and we look forward to your response, as well as receiving adequate and timely notice of all applications submitted to the county by HiTest, along with notice of all hearings, comment periods and other proceedings.

We request that a copy of this letter be posted on the county’s website, along with the other correspondence received regarding HiTest’s proposed industrial facility.

Norm Semanko, a Boise attorney who represents CANSS, directed this Dec. 21, 2017, letter to Greg Snow, director of community development for Pend Oreille County.

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