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SANDPOINT – A local grassroots group is seeking to change Bonner County’s land use regulations in an effort to protect the rural character of the county.
Keep Bonner County Rural is a newly formed group that aims to limit urban sprawl, maintain low rural density and reduce “unbridled growth” in the community. The proposed amendment is an attempt to preserve the current zoning designations, which have been in place for approximately 15 years or more.
KBCR members said the proposed amendment would strengthen the standards that must be met to justify changes to the current zoning. The intention is to slow down the wave of area changes that have been approved in recent months, which has led to increased density and development in rural areas of the county, the group said in a press release.
“When someone asks for a change of zone, it almost always increases the density,” said Dave Bowman. “Zone changes do not require a land use study to examine impacts on natural resources, traffic, schools or neighboring landowners, although zone changes often lead developers to subdivide and sell plots. “
The group highlighted what it says are two instances where county officials not only changed the zoning, but also changed the overall plan to accommodate developers.
Over the past two years, KBCR has said the zoning of more than 2,800 acres has been changed, much of which has increased density in rural areas, according to public records collected by KBCR and Project 7B. Meanwhile, over the past year, nearly 190 minor land divisions have been applied for, and nearly all have been approved, resulting in between 380-760 new building lots being created without notice or public notice.
“The combination of buffer zoning and administrative subdivision approval creates an unsustainable pace of development in our county,” Bowman said. “The level of public services and the quality of our natural resources will suffer. “
Earlier this year, KBCR appointed Bowman Group President. On October 22, Bowman submitted a request to change the text of Title 12 to the Bonner County Planning Department on behalf of the group.
The application aims to change more than one page of text at the start of Title 12. Title 12 is a section of the Bonner County code that deals with land use regulations. The 236-page document serves as the final word on what can and cannot be built in the county.
“We want to make it harder for developers to destroy our rural way of life,” Bowman said. “We are not calling for a moratorium or closing the door to growth, but we want to close the floodgates.”
In part, the amendment asks candidates to provide “compelling evidence that the meaning of the text of Title 12 and / or the overall plan is wrong”.
“I don’t think this is a poorly written code,” Bowman said, “but there is still some leeway. And if we had had county commissioners interested in enforcing the overall plan, we wouldn’t have had to write this code.
Although a hearing date for the proposed amendment is still undetermined, Bowman said he expects the hearing to take place in February.
Meanwhile, Bowman said KBCR is collecting signatures on a petition to support efforts to protect the county’s rural quality of life.
The current version of Bonner County Title 12 is available at codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/bonnercountyid, select “Title 12 Land Use Regulations” in the left column. The proposed amendment can be read at bonnercountyid.gov/FileAM0021-21, select “Application”.