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Concerns loom as Comprehensive Plan update nears

by DANIEL RADFORD
Staff Writer | August 2, 2022 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — Bonner County’s Planning Commission is seeking input for updates to the Bonner County Comprehensive Plan.

Residents are being asked for their views to help reshape the “goals, objectives, and policies” of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The document guides the creation of county code and departmental policies.

The 48-page draft of the updated plan was proposed by the Planning Commission and uploaded to the county website on July 19. It is available at bit.ly/BoCoPlan. The Comprehensive Plan, especially its goals, objectives, and policies, guide the county in code changes.

One of the proposed updates would be a new policy, under the recreation section, which outright bans public access easements on private property. “Under no circumstances, will Bonner County require access easements on private property as a condition of development.”

Another proposed change to the housing section’s goals and objectives would strike the requirement “to provide adequate shelter for all, regardless of age, income or physical abilities.” This sentence would be replaced with “Bonner County will enable opportunities for diverse housing needs.”

In reviewing the document, Jennifer Ekstrom of the Idaho Conservation League said she had two main concerns, the need to update county data before updating the plan and the lack of adequate public input.

She wrote “all of the updates [to the plan’s goals, objectives, and policies] are being done without collecting current data about our community.”

The updated version of the Comprehensive Plan’s goals, objectives, and policies include calls for increased data collection, Ekstrom said the cart is being put before the horse. She made clear that any updates to the goals, objectives, and policies of the plan should only be made after gathering more data on county needs and community concerns.

“The wise thing to do would be to put the brakes on the current process, rather than make rushed changes that could ultimately undermine our rural way of life and permanently damage our environment,” Ekstrom wrote.

She continued “[o]ur community deserves to be engaged in the process more thoroughly, with open houses and workshops designed to help us understand the implications of the changes, and with opportunities to give input after gaining sufficient understanding.”

Project 7B officials echoed Ekstrom’s concerns in an email to supporters last week. “Two community workshops are better than none,” but they said the group believes there should be more engagement.

“The county formed 5 different sub-area committees beginning in 2016, which were tasked with coming up with land use plans for their geographic areas,” Project 7B officials said. “The county is claiming this as the public involvement portion of the process.”

Project 7B is concerned with the pace of the Planning Commission in their efforts to update the plan “[d]espite the lack of a county-wide public involvement process, and the fact that the Planning Commission originally proposed a year-long process,” the email read.

The commission is accepting written comments until Aug. 20 via email to planning@bonnercountyid.gov.

The two workshops will be held at the County Administrative Building and will begin at 4:30 p.m. on both Aug. 2 and Aug. 16.

At their Aug. 30 meeting, the Planning Commission hopes to recommend the proposed changes to the Bonner County commissioners for a vote.

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