Thursday, July 18, 2024

BOCC workshop in progress for sewer permitting

Staff Writer | August 30, 2023 1:00 AM

The Bonner County commissioners are working to schedule a resident workshop following discussions Tuesday about requiring a septic permit before a building location permit can be issued.

Currently, the county does not require a sign off by the Panhandle Health District, which approves septic system sites, prior to residents receiving a building location permit and construction. Kathryn Kolberg, from Panhandle Health, said that the county used to have the health district review a building location prior to the landowner being issued a permit for the structure. That way, the most suitable place for a septic system could be mapped out so the landowner was able to plan their structure and driveway accordingly.

“What we are currently doing is — we are reviewing building location permits for the Planning Department,” she said. “But we’re doing a narrative statement; just giving the information as to what we find for our septic records. And that doesn’t preclude the Planning Department from issuing the building location permit. What it does is it may prevent the person from getting a final approval on their building location permit, which is generally after the structure is already built, because the Planning Department at this point in time will not grant a final approval of the structure until Panhandle Health has verified septic.”

Koldberg said that while the current setup is better than nothing, Panhandle would prefer to be involved in the process prior to any structure being built, as this can save time and money for the landowner.

“Some of these parcels may not even have a suitable spot for septic,” she said. “Or, more frequently, what we’re faced with is the land owner ends up with a more complex and complicated, expensive system.”

Kolberg said that requiring a sign-off from Panhandle Health prior to getting a building location permit wouldn’t hinder those who are trying to build structures that don’t require septic systems, such as a shop or a shed. Panhandle would be quick to sign off on these projects so as not to hinder the building timeline, she said.

“When I look at some of the counties around us, being one of the two that do nothing seems like there’s room for us to do a little bit more of something as we grow,” said Commissioner Asia Williams.

However, Commissioner Steve Bradshaw mentioned that long wait times were one of the factors that led to the septic permit being pushed back.

“One of the reasons that we took that requirement away is because of the short building season in North Idaho,” he said. “Panhandle’s response time — at that time — to get a sign-off, could be as long as 10 weeks, which is totally unacceptable for a builder or a homeowner who’s wanting to get their foundation in and their house in before winter sets in.”

Rather than the commissioners making a decision immediately, Williams suggested a town hall be held so residents and commissioners can hear from Panhandle Health, the Planning Department and residents regarding the topic. Commissioner Luke Omodt agreed that a workshop sounded beneficial and suggested it be held after Sept. 12, when Planning Director Jake Gabell meets with a representative from Panhandle Health for a regularly-scheduled meeting.

Gabell said a possible date for the workshop is Sept. 13, during the commissioners’ scheduled land use hearing, which currently has no agendized items. However, Williams quipped that a two-week notice would not be enough time for citizens to arrange their schedules to attend the meeting and suggested it be held further out.

Williams said she would work on scheduling a date further out that would work for all involved parties and would make that announcement at a later commissioners meeting.