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Campground rezone subject of special meeting

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | June 16, 2023 1:00 AM

A Friday meeting to discuss a proposed zone change for a campground expansion at the Bonner County Fairgrounds has prompted Sheriff Daryl Wheeler to call on the community to attend the meeting and share their thoughts.

"It appears that one or two Commissioners are planning to rezone part of the 20 acre Sheriff's Complex and add it to the 43 acre Fairgrounds Complex," Wheeler wrote in a social media post.

He then asked for people to "write, call or show up to the meeting and let the Commissioners know what you think."

The special meeting, which was scheduled just before 11 a.m. on Thursday, includes one action item — a potential rezone and conditional use permit for an RV campground expansion. The meeting will be held at 11 a.m. at the Bonner County Administration Building, 1500 U.S. 2, Suite 308.

The location of the proposed campground has been a source of controversy and debate for more than a year.

Supporters of the location say the property is county land and can be used as best determined by commissioners, who are tasked with managing county property. They contend the site is the only location that allows for the number of campsites called for in the grant application, and that enough room exists for both the campground and possible justice center.

However, critics of the proposed campground location contend the site has long been earmarked for a possible justice center complex since the county jail sits on a piece of land next to the currently vacant lot. However, no official documents stating such have been brought forward.

Because of the arguments that have ensued about the land, Phase I of construction — repairing the campground road which is full of giant potholes — has yet to begin, and the deadline of June 30 is fast approaching.

Currently mired in Phase II of the four-phase project, the county is at risk of losing an almost $500,000 Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation grant.

The Board of County Commissioners has applied for an extension to the grant but has not yet heard back.

The Bonner County Fair Board recently voted to reject the grant, saying they had not been sufficiently included in the project's discussion or selection of its location.

However, Bonner County commissioners Luke Omodt and Steve Bradshaw contend the opposite is the case, saying the project — and its location — have been discussed by the past several fair managers.

Bonner County received the Idaho Parks and Recreation grant in mid-2022 for improvements to land adjacent to the Bonner County Fairgrounds to build an RV campground. Because it is a reimbursement grant, Bonner County will initially have to pay for the project but would be paid back by IDPR once it is completed.