To get a license in Ada County to serve beer and wine in a restaurant, an applicant must get written consent from 75 percent of the property owners within 1,000 feet of the establishment.
The Hilltop Station, a restaurant and general store on Idaho 21 above Lucky Peak Reservoir, has just two such neighbors. One supported the license; one did not.
Because Hilltop didn't get the required 75 percent consent, the county didn't issue a license for on-site consumption. It did issue a license for retail sale of beer and wine in the general store, which doesn't require neighbors' consent.
Hilltop's owners appealed to the Ada County Commissioners. At a May 8 public hearing, about a dozen people stood before the commissioners to voice support for granting a beer and wine license to Hilltop's restaurant.
One person spoke against it.
"I am the one dissenting neighbor," said Jerry Whitehead, who has a house on Idaho 21 about a fifth of a mile from Hilltop Station. "The law is clear. I have exercised my rights under the law."
Commissioner Jim Tibbs asked Whitehead what specific issues he had with the county issuing a beer and wine license to Hilltop.
"I do have specific issues, but this is not the time nor the place," Whitehead said. He said he and his attorney would discuss those issues with Hilltop's owners.
"The value of my place far exceeds what he has. I can't see issuing a carte blanche to do whatever he wants to do," Whitehead said.
Hilltop co-owner Eric McCullough told the commissioners Whitehead did raise concerns about landscaping, hours of operation and the building's septic system in early conversations with the new owners.
McCullough told the commissioners he is redoing the septic field and the business will abide county ordinances pertaining to hours and noise. He also said the restaurant will offer beer and wine with meals, not operate as a bar.
Whitehead did say he supports the restaurant and the general store's retail sale of beer and wine.
The commissioners acknowledged Hilltop's owners are in a unique situation, with just one property owner determining the fate of their alcohol license. They voted unanimously to grant the license.
"It is our job to interpret the gray area in these matters, and that is why it is here before us. Based on the testimony, I think there is overwhelming support to grant the license," Ada County Commissioner Rick Yzaguirre said.
In granting the license, the commissioners wrote: "The 'spirit' of the Ada County Code consent requirement has been met, and the right to pursue a legitimate business interest should not be thwarted by an unduly harsh interpretation of the law."
On June 6, Whitehead and his wife, Shannon, filed an appeal in Fourth District Court. The petition does not detail why they asked for judicial review of the county's decision. The Whiteheads said they "will file a separate statement of the issues for judicial review" by June 20.
Once the Whiteheads provide details, a judge will decide if the county's actions comply with code.
Whitehead, who chairs the Idaho Transportation Department Board and owns Western Trailers, could not be reached for comment.
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell