City approves fairground rezoning requests
Staff Writer | September 29, 2023 1:00 AM
SANDPOINT — The Sandpoint City Council held a special meeting Wednesday to consider two rezoning requests from the Bonner County commissioners.
These two requests are for adjacent properties that include the fairgrounds. Based on the application, the northern parcel is zoned Rural Residential 1 and a portion at the southeast corner is proposed to be rezoned Mixed Use Residential (MUR). The southern parcel is zoned MUR and a portion at the northwest corner is proposed to be zoned RR-1.
Bonner County Commissioner Luke Omodt gave a presentation offering the board’s motivations behind the requests and brief explanations of intended improvements that would take place should the rezoning requests be approved.
“The fairground is an important economic driver,” Omodt said. “You’ve got activities from Funky Junk, to the Gun and Horn Show, you have the Ski Swap, you have a survival expo that is coming forward … For every dollar that is brought into our county where people come and they spend money in support of Sandpoint, that’s jobs, that is taxes and that is what feeds families.”
Omodt said the board hopes to continue to expand the potential for the fairgrounds as the county continues to grow — this means adjustments to zoning.
The rezoning has been requested intentionally to allow for various improvements to the fairground to ensue, such as additional parking, expansion of recreational opportunities, accommodations to make up for property lost to Samuelson right-of-way updates, and continued use of the sheriff’s office, which currently claims space in a residential zone, Omodt said.
In July 2023, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a hearing regarding the rezoning request and recommended that the rezoning of the southern lot be denied but the rezoning of the northern lot be approved with the condition of a rezoning development agreement.
During public hearing, three individuals expressed opposition to the requests, one being Sheriff Daryl Wheeler.
“[The rezone requests] did not fit the city’s comprehensive plan, they may have unintended consequences and the county fairboard should be consulted,” Wheeler said. “One of those unintended consequences would be the devaluation of those 2.2 acres…because it allows for lower density housing.”
In his rebuttal, Omodt emphasized that the county has no intention of being in the business of home building.
“The driver of our request today is for fairgrounds activities, with the areas that we have requested,” he said. “I see no immediate future for Bonner County to go into property development.”
Councilor Andy Groat, while supportive of the fair and its purpose, said he hesitated to promote the city’s involvement.
“I can appreciate you being here and fighting for our fair — I think everybody here loves going to the fair for a variety of different reasons. This is an old-fashioned turf war and I would really prefer the city not be involved in this. I understand that it’s in front of us now.”
Following additional discussion and clarification, Councilor Justin Dick moved to approve the motion.
The councilors voted 5-1 to approve the rezoning request, with Groat dissenting.