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Search for new planning director begins

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | May 27, 2022 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — The county’s search for a new planning director is officially on.

On Tuesday, the Human Resources department announced at the county commission’s weekly business meeting that current Planning Director Milton Ollerton will be vacating the position.

One audience member feigned not being able to hear the announcement, causing Human Resources senior generalist Alissa Clark to loudly repeat, “the planning director is leaving!”

On Thursday, Ollerton said that his choice to move out of the county is not political, and comes at an opportune time for his family.

“There has been a lot accomplished in the county over the last six years,” Ollerton said on Thursday. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working here with the county residents and the board. With new people come new ideas and new motivation. I am pleased with where the planning department has grown from and am excited to see where it will continue to grow in the future.

Ollerton said he and his family have enjoyed living in Bonner County and cherish the good memories they made during their time here.

“Bonner County will be missed. I have loved living here,” Ollerton said. “I am most grateful and will always cherish the good times and good people of Bonner County.”

Since 2016, Ollerton has assisted the Planning Department in many important changes to the land use portion of county code, known as Title 12.

The most notable of such changes was the dissolving of the Planning & Zoning Commission, and replacing it with separate zoning and planning commissions in April.

“Last year, the Planning & Zoning Commission has been so tied up in hearing land use files that they have not had the time to work on these sub area plans and integrate them into the comprehensive plan,” Ollerton said in January. “This would give the county an opportunity to further this work more urgently and address the growth.”

The newly formed Planning Commission is currently working on revising the comprehensive plan. Updates and potential changes will be addressed in a public meeting in June.

The subject of growth and development is one that is met with much opposition in the county.

In October 2021, Ollerton said the county’s building and land use codes are able to be interpreted differently from one individual to the next. This openness to interpretation is something that makes the role of planning director difficult.

“There’s folks that interpret the codes differently than the board does. I think that’s the hardest part of planning and zoning is the codes, it’s the way that they are written,” Ollerton said. “There’s lots of moving parts in them. You can read one section, and then there’s another section that’s also relevant, it comes down to how things are interpreted.”

Ollerton encourages citizens to read planning code and voice their opinions to public officials when the opportunity arises. He anticipates positive change in the county especially when citizens participate in government.

“If you live in the county you should participate in the public process,” Ollerton said on Thursday. “Changes to ordinances and plans are often made because of one person’s comments. You do have a voice and you should participate. Take the time to read the proposals on your own, form your own opinion and show up.”

The director offered many methods for citizens to contact their public officials. He suggested attending public meetings in addition to calling, emailing, and writing letters to the department and its staff.

“Take the opportunity to participate. It really is you who makes the process transparent,” the planning director said.

Ollerton’s last day as Planning Director will be on June 3.

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