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Selle rezone reconsideration continued

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | April 21, 2022 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — Another standing-room-only audience was dismissed after a six-and-a-half minute long meeting intended to reconsider the 714-acre rezone in the Selle Valley.

The meeting was continued to May 4, and will be held at the county administration building at 1500 U.S. 2 at 1:30 p.m.

The reconsideration was requested by grassroots group Keep Bonner County Rural, in February after the commission’s vote to approve the rezone changing the zoning from Agricultural/Forestry 20-acre minimums, to 10-acre minimums.

“We have had a hitch in the get-along here,” said Commissioner Chair Dan McDonald after calling the meeting to order on Wednesday. “KBCR’s attorney had to vacate his building because of a gas leak — and apparently he can’t get on Wi-Fi somewhere else. And so the request is to reschedule this hearing for another date by their attorney.”

Deputy prosecutor and legal advisor to the commission, Bill Wilson, provided some input.

“I received that call from Preston Carter about 10 minutes ago. He asked me to request the board [to continue the reconsideration.] I tentatively said yes. The representative for the appellant [KBCR] and the spokesperson have spoken with me before this hearing and asked also that this be done. As a favor to Mr. Carter, and just to make sure that we get the hearing that everybody expects and deserves, it is my recommendation that we continue this.”

“I really apologize to everybody,” Wilson said. “But given this case, given that the request for reconsideration was initiated by this group, it would be remiss to hear the file before us for reconsideration if Mr. Carter, the attorney, is not here.”

Dave Bowman, KBCR chairman, stood up in the middle of the full audience to address the situation.

“We’ve had other hearings before get canceled and it was an unhappy moment for us. But this was the right thing to do,” Bowman said. “We hired an attorney, we’ve gone through all of the preparation with that attorney to present. And five minutes ago he ran out of his building because of a gas leak, nothing he had any control over. We could choose to go forward and present without an attorney, but that would really not be a good case for us. So, going along with what Bill said, and ask that we continue [the hearing.] I really apologize for having this happen, but sometimes it happens.”

After a brief discussion among county officials, the meeting was continued to May 4 at 1:30 p.m.

“Before you vote, you oughta check with the applicant,” said a representative who was sitting next to Don Skinner, one of the landowners. “It might be appropriate to continue it for a couple of hours today, to see if we can get him [Carter] on Zoom or figure out some other way.”

“Some of us travel,” said a woman in the crowd. “And I’m not staying in town for a few hours. I don’t know about anybody else.”

The commissioners kept the May 4 date for the hearing.

The highly controversial rezone has consistently drawn large crowds of residents in the area. Many of those opposed to the rezone are concerned that the landowners will develop the land, causing an increase in population and development in the Selle Valley.

The applicants who originally requested the rezone, known as Pack River Partners, LLC, said in the application that the rezone would allow the owners to “have usable options for the parcels, like the surrounding area.”

Skinner told the commission, and a standing-room-only audience in February that there was no intention to develop the land, and that they simply wanted the zoning designation returned to Ag/Forest 10 because that was the zoning when the family acquired the land in 1996.

“To set the record straight, there’s been a lot of misinformation, a lot of accusations towards our family, towards our ranch and towards our business. It’s gotten so volatile that it’s pitted neighbor against neighbor. That’s a dangerous place to be. That’s not the area we moved into,” Skinner said in February. “I am strictly here only to ask that my property rights be put back to where they were when I purchased it, and that is 10 Acre Ag. That is all.”

“Do you have any plans at all of doing any developing whatsoever,” McDonald asked.

“I don’t have any plans other than I just want my zoning back to where it was,” Skinner responded.

“I recommended people call you and ask questions because I couldn’t answer. How many phone calls did you get, how many visits did you get,” McDonald asked.

“Zero,” Skinner said.

“So, none of your neighbors came and spoke to you, called you, sent you an email, sent you a letter,” McDonald asked.

“Nope. Not a one,” Skinner said.

“That’s sad,” McDonald said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the Board of County Commissioners deny the rezone in November. However, the commission opted to approve the rezone three months later in February.

Days after the commission's decision to approve the rezone, Keep Bonner County Rural applied to have the decision reconsidered by the board, stating that there were legal errors in the boards initial decision.

Members of the public are able to provide public comment in writing to the Board of County Commissioners before the reconsideration hearing. Those interested in submitting written comment can do so by emailing the Bonner County Planning Department at Planning@BonnerCountyID.gov.