Friday, September 22, 2023

County Comp Plan: What’s going on

Staff Writer | October 26, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Concern and criticism abound as the Planning Commission rewrites the county’s comprehensive land use plan, Jacob Gabell of the county Planning Department told the Bee.

Gabell said he wants the public to know how and when they can comment — and how to follow the revisions as they are proposed. With the process to update the plan ongoing, Gabell said there are several opportunities coming up to comment on specific components.

Drafts of each comp plan chapter must pass through four stages, including two workshops with the volunteer, quasi-legislative Planning Commission.

While the first workshop does not allow public comment, the second workshop does. Whether the workshop allows public comment or not is indicated on the agenda for the given meeting.

A public hearing, which also allows public comment, follows the workshops. Finally if the Planning Commission votes to recommend the change, it goes before the Board of County Commissioners within 22 calendar days.

That gives the Planning Commission a measure of flexibility in scheduling, as all three stages for different components can be accomplished at the same meeting, Gabell said.

For example, on Nov. 1, the commission will meet to recommend or remand the updated components for property rights and recreation. It comprises the third stage for the planning commission.

As an amendment, the proposed changes must be either affirmed or rejected. If affirmed by the Planning Commission, the proposed changes could go before the Bonner County Board of Commissioners Nov. 23, Gabell said.

The agenda also includes two “second” workshops with public comment being sought on proposed changes to hazardous areas, community design, and special areas of the Comp Plan

If approved Nov. 1, the chapters would go to the second stage on Nov. 15, followed by a recommendation on Nov. 29, should that timeline be kept. If that is successful, then the new drafts could be brought to the county commissioners by late December.

However, since transportation and school facilities sections of the plan are in their first workshop, they are not open to public comment.

Last meeting, on Oct. 18, the Planning Commission decided to proceed with the latest drafts for property rights and recreation, after the second workshop. Planning Commission Chair Alan Songstad who elected to revise the property rights chapter made few changes to the component, other than referencing state law to clarify the county’s legal responsibilities for land owners.

Commissioner Debby Trinen chose to revise the recreation chapter, and had to trim quite a bit. She opted to reduce the number of recreational locations, including in the comp plan, to the recreational areas mentioned in the sub area plans.

Trinen added an introduction to the component underscoring the importance to protect the ecological integrity of the area while also allowing for recreational activities.

She said she sought to promote “diverse recreational opportunities while preserving the area’s scenic character and ecological systems.” However, she also advocated for expanded development on water. “Water-based commerce along the shoreline should be encouraged, so long as its operations do not degrade adjacent property values, degrade water-quality,” she said earlier this month.

To read and compare the current and proposed property rights and recreation chapters, search “AM0015-22” at

The last opportunity to comment on these two chapters before they are slated to go to the Board of County Commissioners is Tuesday Nov. 1 at 4:30 p.m. in the Bonner County Administration Building at 1500 U.S. 2 in Sandpoint.

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