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SANDPOINT — Bonner County commissioners approved a zone change and comprehensive plan amendment changing 30 acres in the Selle Valley from Agriculture/Forest 20 to Rural Residential 5.

On March 17, the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended denial of the files. The Board of County Commissioners opted on Wednesday to part with the recommendation and approve both the comp plan amendment and zone change.

“I had some heartburn about Planning & Zoning’s ruling on this,” said Commissioner Chair Dan McDonald. “I couldn’t figure out how they came up with it.”

Applicant representative KayLeigh Miller explained that the changes were to be allowed for a family split on her family’s property. Miller said that members of her family are currently occupying an RV on the premises and intend to build a house, but the prior zoning would not allow for it.

“Historically, the land was always zoned 10 acres since 1978 when the county first adopted its zoning code,” Miller said.

The commission received three letters from neighbors in support of the changes, however, one neighbor showed up in person to speak against the proposed change.

“We understand that the change would be to have property for our children,” said Kirsten Davidson. “We understand that younger people are priced out of the market. But where does it end if we keep chopping and chopping? The Selle Valley’s rural nature will no longer exist if we keep doing this. Making exceptions on an individual basis does not support the plan we have in place.”

It’s not the first time that neighbors have turned out to speak against one another regarding zone changes in the valley.

Davidson was the only person who chose to speak during public comment.

During deliberation, McDonald directly addressed the issue of “chopping up” the valley.

“As far as chopping things up, it is supported by the Local Land Use Planning Act. That’s what we’re dealing with today,” McDonald said. “Both of those things are built into the cake and it falls under private property rights. … It’s incredibly clear that it should have been zoned rural residential. I want to command staff for doing such a great job. It would be a challenge to put it into Ag/forest.”

The parcels located off of Loose Horse Lane are 2.2 miles north of Kootenai and are within the area of ​​city impact. The parcels are separated from the proper city limits by two parcels of land.

“We’re already close to major road and city services,” said Commissioner Jeff Connolly. “This is where these kinds of developments actually should happen. That’s why I think this was a well prepared presentation. I think between staff and the applicant they showed more than why this should be changed.”

McDonald wrapped up deliberation by stating that this change was correcting the prior zoning of Ag/Forest 20.

“In fact, we are correcting the zoning,” McDonald said. “I’m a big fan of keeping Bonner County families in Bonner County. We are gradually losing our culture. It is being replaced with folks from outside of the county. And if we don’t make room for kids who were born and raised here who love the culture, I’m not certain what Bonner County will become.”

The commission unanimously decided to approve both the comprehensive plan amendment and zone change.

While some groups may believe that this qualifies as “spot zoning,” Planning Director Milton Ollerton explained why this is not the case.

“The way the statute reads is if it’s in compliance with the comprehensive plan it is not considered spot zoning,” Ollerton said.

The county publishes all upcoming meetings on their website at BonnerCountyID.gov, or physically in the lobby of the administrative building located at 1500 US 2. For those who wish to provide comment to county officials about any of the topics mentioned in this article are welcome to contact county officials through the planning department, or by contacting any of the county’s commissioners — contact info can be found on the county’s website.

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