By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
The board of Bonner County commissioners voted during a special meeting June 16 to move forward with a zone change request and conditional use permit application through the city of Sandpoint, marking another step in the process to build an RV campground on land between the Bonner County Fairgrounds and sheriff’s complex.
The RV park plan has been divisive for months, with many community members — including Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler — arguing that the land in question would be better used as the location for a new justice complex to serve the county’s courts and jail expansion needs.
Commissioner Luke Omodt has spearheaded the effort to move forward with the RV park on the grounds that it would generate revenue and mitigate taxpayer costs for needed fairgrounds improvements. Omodt requested the June 16 meeting, which was noticed 24 hours in advance.
Board Chairman Steve Bradshaw opened the meeting by stating that no public comments would be accepted, as they were “just a formality” and only allowed at the chair’s discretion during non-hearings.
The agenda featured requests to submit two applications to the city of Sandpoint, seeing as the property in question is within city limits: first, a rezone from Mixed Use Residential to Rural Residential; and, second, a conditional use permit. The exact requested use was unclear based on the motion, but because the memorandum referenced the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation grant acquired for the RV park expansion, that use could be inferred.
Omodt motioned to move forward with the rezone, which Commissioner Asia Williams — a consistent voice against the project who has questioned the process and overall collaboration that went into the RV park proposal — seconded in order to advance the issue for discussion. In response, Omodt called the question and requested an “immediate vote” in order to bypass discussion.
Despite this, when called to vote, Williams voiced her concerns about the rezone request, which she alleged did not undergo review by county legal counsel. When she called on a meeting attendee from the sheriff’s office to answer a question about the property, a debate broke out between the three board members over Bradshaw’s ability to squash discussion.
“The chairman has called for a roll call vote so that ends all discussion, period,” Bradshaw said. “No ‘ifs,’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts.’”
“I’m not ready to vote,” Williams responded. “I need information in order to make my vote.”
The exchange prompted several outbursts from the meeting’s audience, including, “You are not God,” directed at Bradshaw, as well as cries of “tyranny” and one call for Omodt to “wipe that smirk off [his] face.”
Bradshaw told Williams that unless she had “a serious comprehension problem,” that when a roll call vote was called, “all discussion ceases.” Williams pointed out that no discussion had even been allowed, to which Bradshaw replied: “You’re right — I didn’t because it’s just a formality.”
“It’s not a formality for an elected official to speak,” Williams replied.
“You have the majority vote, but when you screw our county, make sure you take the majority of the responsibility,” Williams went on, adding that a 24-hour meeting notice did not adequately provide for interested parties — including members of the Bonner County Fair Board, which has come out against the RV park expansion on the contested property — to participate.
Omodt and Bradshaw voted to approve both the rezone request and CUP applications. The city of Sandpoint will make the ultimate decision on both at a later date.
The June 16 meeting was a topic of discussion at the board’s regular Tuesday, June 20 business meeting, during which Williams made a motion to stream all meetings online, including those special meetings noticed only a day in advance. Currently, only Tuesday business meetings and long-noticed public hearings are consistently streamed on YouTube and Zoom.
“I want to be held to a higher standard, and I don’t think the county should say, ‘We met the bare minimum,’” she said. “We know that the community cares about this campground. There wasn’t anything gained by doing it on Friday … but it did cost us — it cost the community feeling that we’re moving forward as a community.”
Omodt voted against the motion, alleging that it would require hiring another county employee. Williams responded that she’d been in contact with the Technology Department and confirmed that additional meetings could be covered with “not that much difficulty.”
The motion passed with two votes in favor from Williams and Bradshaw.
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