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Sandpoint P&Z approves one of two rezone requests

by LAUREN REICHENBACH
Staff Writer | July 20, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voiced approval for only one of the two proposed rezoning projects at the Bonner County Fairgrounds.

The rezoning projects were voted on by the planning commissioners Tuesday to progress the proposed RV campground expansion project at the fairgrounds. The campground expansion was to sit on one of the two parcels that needed to be rezoned in order for construction to begin. However, a grant extension for that project was denied by the grant funder last month and it is unclear whether the project will continue moving forward without that funding.

Regardless, the county commissioners continued with Sewell Engineering to assess the rezoning projects. For the rezoning to be accepted, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission had to evaluate and either approve or deny the projects before the matter went before the Sandpoint City Council.

“What we must consider is whether the rezone request is supported by the adopted city of Sandpoint Comprehensive Plan,” commission chair John Hastings said.

The larger of the two parcels — where the proposed RV campground would sit — is roughly 2.2 acres and would be rezoned from mixed-use to rural residential, preparing it to be incorporated into the current fairgrounds property. The smaller parcel would move from rural residential to mixed-use. While that .3-acre parcel is technically part of the fairgrounds, it is fenced off as a part of the Bonner County jail facility. Rezoning it would be a technicality, according to legal counsel that was present at the meeting.

No one in the audience signed up to speak favorably or neutrally about the rezoning projects, but several people did sign up to speak against it. The first speaker was Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, who said he believes the rezoning applications were illegal.

“[Commissioner] Luke Omodt lacks statutory authority to be the exclusive applicant for the proposed land use change,” he told the commission.

In order to be a legal application, Wheeler contended that the fair board needed to be a part of the application process and was not.

Bonner County Commissioner Asia Williams also spoke against the rezoning. Referring back to Hastings’s comment about how the projects will fit with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, she said neither of them will.

“The fair board was actually very clear that with this particular project, they were not interested in it,” she told the commission. “That in and of itself does not make this fit in your Comprehensive Plan.”

After several additional comments against the two projects, Bonner County Commissioner Luke Omodt got up to speak in support of the matter. He referred to a memorandum of understanding signed earlier this year between the board of commissioners and the current fair board on how the county controls that piece of land and presides over the fair board. Omodt said the rezoning of this piece of property would bring only positives for both the city and the county.

“The [county] board of commissioners has removed encumbrances and the board of commissioners is in support of this rezone project because we believe it will best serve the county moving forward,” he said.

After some deliberation and discussion between the commissioners, it was suggested that the items be tabled until further information was brought forth. However, none of the commissioners knew what other information would be needed to change any of their minds, so they decided to vote Tuesday night.

For the larger parcel of property — the proposed fairgrounds land – the commission voted to suggest that the Sandpoint City Council deny the rezoning. Commissioners Wayne Benner, Grant Simmons, Mose Dunkel and Hastings voted to deny the rezoning while Amelia Boyd, Slate Kamp and Ben McGrann voted in favor of the rezone.

The smaller parcel’s rezone was unanimously approved by the planning commissioners.

While neither of these votes hold any legal standing, they could potentially affect the city council’s decision. The matter will go before the Sandpoint City Council at a later date.