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KBCR land use amendment gets hearing

| February 16, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — What may be the first-ever zoning code amendment initiated by a citizens group will be heard by the Bonner County Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, Feb. 17.

Keep Bonner County Rural has proposed a change to Title 12 Zoning Code to make it more difficult to increase the density of development in the county, the group said in a press release. KBCR formed because of a frustration with county rulings that favor development over the county Comprehensive Land Use Plan’s goal of protecting the rural quality of life.

“We think the existing code is clear that one has to demonstrate that it’s necessary in order to change zoning of an area, but no one is being held to that standard,” said Dave Bowman, KBCR chairman, and a Selle Valley property owner. “So we are seeking to better define what necessary is.”

The code change doesn’t change the existing zoning designations, which determine the appropriate use and lot size for a given area. The change will make it more difficult for developers to get higher density than currently allowed.

The county has received several letters in favor of the amendment from the public and agencies.

“Planning is where the quality of life for the inhabitants of a community intersects with regulations for development of the land upon which that community resides,” KBCR officials said in the group’s application. “Good planners are futurists. They must look as far into the future as possible to guard the public health and welfare that makes up the quality of life.”

However, to look into the future, sometimes planners must look back at the past, the group said.

“What did planners a hundred years ago foresee?,” the group said in the application. “What did they miss? How did that affect the community? Sometimes they look at the present moment to predict outcomes of development based on the present together with past. Planners are collectors of information, churning collected data with public input in order to create ‘plans’ to guide rules for development.”

However, KBCR members said the county is not collecting data, nor are they making good use of public input in decisions made on behalf of the citizens. Instead, the county is approving almost every request to develop.

“Developers as a general rule have only one goal, which is to make the most money they can,” KBCR member said. “There are exceptions, but very few. We live in a capitalist system and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with making money. Planning offers protection against that single-minded goal of making money for one person or company at the expense of the community’s collective desires. Planning brings objective balance to the two competing objectives.”

KBCR said the group’s amendment seeks to balance existing residents' desire to maintain the county’s rural character while employing good planning practices that protect the health and welfare of the residents.

Written comments can be sent to planning@bonnercountyid.gov.

The Planning and Zoning Commission hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Feb. 17, at the Bonner County Administration Building. To attend and make comments virtually, register for the Zoom meeting at the county planning website: www.bonnercountyid.gov/PZHearings.

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