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Still thinking about Bonner County's planning and zoning changes

I must admit that while I haven’t done the best job of attending the meetings lately or keeping up, I did manage to get lengthy comments and helpful suggestions into the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding the Comprehensive Plan for Bonner County. But I’m still trying to figure out the new zoning thing. Will they reopen the public hearing; recommend approval or denial; send all or part of the proposal back to staff or the consultant for revisions again; Schedule additional hearings; Will they allow more real public input, etc.?

I have gone to the Planning Department’s website (www.co.bonner.id.us/planning). I still find it difficult to understand what stage this plan is in, what are the next steps, what procedures will be enacted leading up to a decision, when a final decision will be made, what real role citizens play in the process, etc. I am looking for a comprehensive source of information which lays it out in layman’s terms with a time-table maybe but, I am a simple man.

I do think a new Land Use Plan is needed and that changes to the current plan can be a beneficial thing. I agree with most of the proposed changes and am very supportive of the water/environmental protections but I do have some concerns.

Certain changes to the minimum allowable parcel sizes would make it too difficult, if not impossible, for a person to sell off part of their acreage if they got into financial trouble, and so they would have to sell the entire parcel to meet their financial obligations. The new plan calls for increasing the minimum allowable parcel sizes - the further

away from population centers you go the

larger the minimum allowable parcel size. I believe this will

actually make acreage unaffordable for all but the most wealthy of individuals - land might cost less per acre as you get out into the ‘country,’ but that won’t help if you have to buy more acreage.

I see potential problems with allowing “accessory dwellings under 800 square feet “ because this could inadvertently become an incentive to create an extra rental house on many single family lots which could create more problems than are solved.

I suggest that instead of making the minimum allowable parcel sizes increase as one moves out from population centers, there could be provisions to allow for smaller parcel sizes, such as five acre minimums, along the county roads but then increase to ten-acre and 20-acre parcels in the next tiers away from the county roads. This allows for county services to the smaller parcels but decreases the amount of people feeding into the county roads from private roads. Perhaps there could be grandfather clauses which allow those who bought under the current zoning laws to still be able to subdivide a parcel off which meets the old agreement they bought under. I have some other ideas too but I will be emailing and writing my concerns and suggestions to the County Commissioners, et all.

Of course the Planning and Zoning staff, the Planning Commission and the Board of commissioners all have the best interest of our county at heart… as each individual sees it. I don’t propose to have all or even any of the right answers, but I do think that the proposals and the potential negative externalities which come from them should be carefully considered in all light and the public should have plenty to say. I am hoping the “Local-Folk” of Bonner County will realize just how profound an effect some of these proposed changes could have on land owner’s rights, use options and the future look, feel and functionality of our county. Some parts of the plan seem to have the potential for negative effects which are unforeseen by the planners, but which concern many who have studied the plan. It is imperative that both people from inside of the process and outside of the process take a careful look at the potential consequences of the proposed changes and I hope they have all made their voices heard… and that it really matters they did.

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Author info

Michael White Michael White is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker - Sterling Society and a consultant for Northwest Group In-Land. He has a BS in Forest Resources & Ecosystem Management and specializes in land, ranches and homes with acreage.

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