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North Idaho couple closing longtime RV business after code violation notice

Ted and Beth Argraves have operated their RV business for the last 15 years. But in June, the Argraves received notice of a land-use and development code violation.
Credit: Beth Argraves/CDA Press
Beth Argraves' RV storage facility on her ten acres has operated for fifteen years, until notice that a conditional use permit was required to continue. The permit has proven impossible for Argraves to obtain.

POST FALLS, Idaho — For 30 years, Ted and Beth Argraves have lived on 10 acres on the Rathdrum Prairie, operating a small RV storage business for the past 15 years, as reported by KREM 2 news partner the Coeur d'Alene Press.   

When the property was initially obtained it was in a quiet, unpopulated agricultural zone. Over the years, Post Falls annexed most of the land surrounding the Argraves' property and developed neighborhoods that are now part of the city of Post Falls.

In June, the Argraves received notice of a land-use and development code violation from Kootenai County.

"I'm so upset," said Beth. "This is so wrong."

Vlad Finkel, a Kootenai County Planner, told The Press that although the Argraves' business was in operation for years with no problems, someone must have made a complaint, leading to the county investigating.

Finkel said this week that these land use codes have existed for many years.

"We are a complaint-driven operation," Finkel said. "We don't automatically search for violations."

The Argraves said they were told by the Kootenai County Community Development Department that they could apply for a conditional use permit to continue operations.

Storage of only two RVs is allowed per household. With two homes on the Argraves' 10 acres and 33 RVs and boats stored, the Argraves were way over the limit.

Though not happy about it, the Argraves set to work preparing the application in hopes of staying in business, Beth said.

They hired Dennis Fuller, executive vice president of Century West Engineering in the Spokane Valley, to help file the application and were given until Jan. 1 to obtain the permit or remove all but the allowed personal use RVs.

However, neither the county nor the city can approve the permit without cooperation of the other entity, and the reasons are complex.

Considered a "county island," the 10 acres itself is county zoned but is surrounded by developments along Cecil Road and Kildeer Avenue that have been fully annexed. That means it falls under the "Area of City Impact Code."

Ethan Porter, a community development associate planner for the city of Post Falls, said he spoke with city staff and consulted with the Engineering Department concerning changes the Argraves must make for their use of land to be in compliance.

The agreement states that the county will uphold regulations that comply with infrastructure and development standards required by the city, said Porter.

This effectively results in the property being suitable for annexation, Porter said. The process can take a long time and is one "of coordination between many parties," Porter said.

Changes and upgrades required by the city include: grants for right-of-way and easements, curbs, gutters, a 10-foot grass swale, street lighting, roadway markings, improvements to the driveway, connection to the public sanitary sewer system and storm water and fire-flow considerations.

The Argraves' facility is open only during daytime hours and clients contact the family prior to access. About three clients access property weekly, Beth said. Public restrooms are not available.

The Panhandle Health District and fire department gave approval to the Argraves. The county acknowledged in an email from Finkel that they "understand that the proposed facility will have no additional impacts on the existing water and sewage systems serving the parcel." However, code regulations cannot be ignored, Finkel said.

"We aren't hesitant to annex," Beth said. "We just can't afford it."

All costs would come out of the Argraves’ pocket.

Because of the financial burden, the Argraves withdrew their application on Sept. 30. They said they'll be forced to dismantle the business, their only source of income.

Already upset by the situation, an experience during the recent election prompted Beth to contact The Press. When arriving to vote, Beth was told that as a resident of the county, she would not be able to cast a vote for any of the city officials, she said.

“That was the last straw,” Beth said. “The city can tell me what I can and can’t do with my property, but I can’t vote on who our next city officials should be.”

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our news partner, click here