Tiny houses big sore spot for council

PRIEST RIVER – In 2019, the prospect of a tiny house development seemed like a benefit to Priest River. Affordable housing has been an issue for municipalities and counties across the state line and all over the region and Priest River is no different.

Landowner Mark Mazenko approached the city in April 2019 with an idea to turn a 2.13-acre parcel, which had 20 mobile home parcels, into 38 tiny homes. The property is located at 281 Gregory St. on the west side of Highway 57, between James and West Beardmore Avenues.

Over two years after approving the conditional use permit, Priest River City Council expressed exasperation over the seeming lack of progress on the development during Monday night’s general meeting.

“I feel like we’ve been…” council member Candy Turner started to say, looking for the right words.

“Used,” council member Doug Wagner finished.

“Yes,” Turner said. “I don’t think he (Mazenko) has any intention of putting in tiny homes.”

Mazenko was not present at the meeting. Neither was mayor Jim Martin.

In 2019 Mazenko also requested and was later granted a variance to allow a tiny home community in a mixed-use residential zone. The variance allows for a minimum home size of 480 square feet, rather than the 1,000 square foot minimum allowed per city ordinance. At the time Mazenko said construction on the development could start in summer 2019, but no tiny houses have been added since then.

City planner Bryan Quayle pointed out that the conditional use application had made allowance for delays in the development due to economic conditions possibly affecting its progress.

Council member Kevin Wylie expressed that the lack of communication and updates from Manzenko was frustrating.

“If we had some idea of where it (the development) was at, then I don’t think it would be a big deal,” Wylie said. “As it stands we have no idea; you drive by there and it looks like nothing has really changed.”

Priest River City Council meetings are the first and third Monday of each month. The public is welcome to attend.