A public hearing was held by the Bear Lake County Commissioners on July 26 at 4 p.m. to hear public comments on a change to Condition 7 of a rezoning ordinance for Brian Hirschi. To review, Hirschi requested a rezone of his 1-acre property on the East side of Bear Lake from Lakeshore Beach Development to Commercial, in order to operate a watercraft rental business. Hirschi spoke first, outlining his understanding of the process thus far, as well as the limited focus of the public hearing. Chairman Vaughn Rasmussen confirmed this. Condition 7 originally limited the use of ATV’s on the beach, which the board realized they cannot regulate on State Public Trust Lands.
Attorney Thomas J. Budge of Pocatello presented a revised version of Condition 7 he drafted, stating the board should require Hirschi to limit his customers to the 192 feet of his property’s beachfront. Budge contended that though the county does not have the authority to regulate the lateral movement of citizens on the lake bed, they do have the discretion to require Hirschi to limit his customers’ activities via contracts for the rental equipment, signage, and possibly fiberglass.
Rasmussen pointed out that any such restrictions are still limiting citizen use of the public trust land, which they cannot do. Budge held that it would be regulating how Hirschi runs his business and not the people. When asked about the rental business currently operating at the Hot Springs location, Budge replied that it is already a commercial property and that Hirschi was asking for a change of use that will cause conflict and public service issues.
Commissioner Rex Payne referred to the new committee formed to help address issues on the lakefront, which will be working with various state entities, and asked what happens if they put this restriction on this business, and then the committee determines they can’t. Budge admitted he has not researched that, however, he is concerned that if the county does not impose the restriction, Hirschi will be “grandfathered” to not ever have to restrict his customers to his lakefront. It was later pointed out that any future changes to state regulation of public trust land use would address this.
Budge added his view that there is a “general consensus that we want people to stay in front of their property.” Rasmussen stated that there is an active group that will argue the beach is public trust land that all citizens have the right to use and travel on. Budge said there was an issue with “driving horizontally up and down the lake”, which Rasmussen replied was currently lawful in Idaho right now. Rasmussen asked what happens if others travel along the beach and take up Hirschi’s lakefront? Budge conceded that could happen.
Denise Jones stated that it is a different thing for residents to go up and down the beach versus patrons of a commercial property. Rasmussen responded that it depends, pointing out he recently saw a residential property “with 22 tents down there”. Jones held that she believes Hirschi’s business needs to be contained. Todd Jones added his concern that there is not a limit set on the number of vehicles that can come through, which should be limited to what the property can handle.
Cindy Jones brought up issues that occurred 3-4 years ago, contending that the sheer number of people was the cause of the conflicts.
She further stated concern that people will rent the cheapest item from Hirschi to gain beach access for multiple families, as well the dangers of intoxicated driving on the beach. Rasmussen stated that the majority of issues with dangerous driving on the lakefront has been perpetrated by the children of lake residents. Ted Jones echoed previous requests for limitations on numbers and lateral beach movement and traffic and wanted the board to table the rezone until the new committee decides what can be done.
The board discussed and concluded that they cannot, by law, regulate lateral movement or lawful activities on the beach. They voted to close the public hearing and resumed the regular meeting. County Attorney Adam McKenzie asserted that Hirschi does not have the ability or authority to control what citizens do on state land and that there would be major enforcement issues if these types of restrictions were imposed. He further stated it is up to the state to regulate this, and that denying Hirschi the rezone would not solve any current or future issues.
The revised version of Condition 7, which eliminated restrictions involving public trust lands, was approved. County Clerk Cindy Garner read the rezone ordinance and agreement in full, including all exhibits, which included an address of the concerns from the original public hearing. The rezone ordinance was then approved, and scheduled to take effect upon legal publication on August 7, at which time Hirschi may open for business.
There were comments and discussion from citizens present that Hirschi was using properties adjacent, which are not zoned commercial, to conduct business via storage of equipment. It was pointed out by the board that storing equipment on such property is not illegal, and McKenzie stated that any business conducted directly from adjacent properties would be in violation of the rezoning ordinance. The board then voted to move to executive session at 5:25 PM. For more information, please contact the County Clerks Office at (208) 945-2212, ext. 5.