Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Wallace Council approves Wilson Street vacation

Managing Editor | October 15, 2021 6:00 AM

WALLACE — Putting an end to a nearly six-monthlong saga, the Wallace City Council voted 3-2-1 Wednesday night to approve an ordinance that will turn over city property on Wilson Street (the far east end of Pearl Street) to adjacent landowners in the area.

The normally standard piece of legislation came under scrutiny once the petition was submitted by Wallace resident Greg Nickel on April 8 over concerns of cutting off land access, not following proper procedure, and possible conflicts of interest with Councilman Dean Cooper.

Voting in favor was Councilman Dave DaRoos and Elmer Mattila, along with Councilwoman Michele Bisconer.

"I don't think the survey is required," Bisconer said. "Legal has fixed the section of the ordinance about splitting up the property. In my mind, I don't believe we required a survey from last month with 323 Elm St. That owner took it upon themselves to get that done."

Voting in opposition was Councilman Rick Shaffer and Councilwoman Heather Branstetter, who both cited the lack of a survey and maintaining proper procedure.

"I still think that we should be consistent and require a survey, since that's what we asked in the case of the Maple Street vacation and what we asked last month in the case of the Elm Street vacation request," Branstetter said." "I want to make it clear that I have the utmost respect for Councilman Cooper and am not saying that he is doing anything shady here."

Shaffer added to her point by saying, "we've been around this bush, gone down this road numerous times on the rules of this ordinance…after hearing from legal, I'm kind of in agreement with Councilwoman Branstetter about concerns with having a survey. I think we have a lot of things going on and surveys are important. We need to do things right…"

Cooper had recused himself from the proceeding in order to avoid the perception of a personal conflict and abstained.

Nickel explained at the July 14 council meeting, where the proposed ordinance was tabled, that his reasoning for the petition is largely based on what he sees as unmaintained infrastructure near his home by the city and nebulous property lines. His goal with the vacation is to also leave the maintenance of the Wilson Street right-of-way to the nearby property owners — as it has not been maintained by the city for decades.

The primary opponent to the petition, Wallace land owner Ryder Gauteraux, had argued that in addition to not being properly involved in the petition process (such as being properly notified and mentioned in the petition as an affected property owner), the vacation of land would cut off another potential access point he has to his land.

Charles Jones and Gauteraux purchased 500 acres of land, located south/southeast of Wallace, earlier in 2020 from Layton Land & Timber.

On the ethical side of the equation, there was also the question of whether or not Cooper would benefit from the proposed vacation, as he and other relatives were listed as land owners that would gain property if the proposal was approved. It has also been noted on the record numerous times that Cooper and Gauteraux have had several heated interactions with one another, both inside and outside the council chambers, regarding land rights and access.

During the public hearing on July 14, Cooper spoke to the council as a citizen — saying that even though the original petition listed him as one of the adjacent property owners that would receive some of the vacated land, he would not be accepting it and wanted none of it. In a later interview with the News-Press, Cooper stated that if the vacation were to be granted in the future with him written out, he would not acquire any of the land through private purchase either.

The council would later go on to approve the petition for vacation with the original wording at the Aug. 10 council meeting by a 3-1-2 margin, despite Cooper requesting that he be removed from the document. After consulting with the city's legal representation though, the council voted unanimously at its Sept. 8 meeting to send the document back to the city attorney to rework up any unclear verbiage and edit the listed benefiting property owners.

In the final version that was passed Wednesday night, Ordinance No. 2021-04 lists Gregory and Sandra Nickel, Silver Valley Rentals LLC, the state of Idaho and Marsha K. Lilienkamp LE as adjacent property owners that will receive some of the vacated land.

Cooper explains that Marsha Lilienkamp is his late mother-in-law and that his father-in-law currently resides in the home that sits on the owned property. He adds that the 80-by-20-foot piece of vacated land the Lilienkamp LE will receive is worth approximately $155.

The next step in the vacation process is for Nickel to complete a land survey by someone licensed by the state.

"The impetus for this is that Greg wanted to fix a wall," Cooper said. "(I) didn't bring this to get a $150 swath (of land)."