By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Bonner County commissioners will reconsider the rezone of more than 700 acres in the Selle Valley at a hearing Wednesday, April 20, marking the latest development in an issue that has sparked vocal opposition throughout the process — a process that included a recommendation of denial from the Planning and Zoning Commission in November but approval from the county commissioners in February.
The land — owned by the Skinner and Otis families, known jointly on their June 2021 rezone application as Pack River Partners, LLC — is currently zoned in 20-acre parcels. Pack River Partners is requesting that designation be changed to 10 acres — a move that many neighbors see as the first step to future development of the property, which is made up mostly of pasture and timberland.
While landowner Don Skinner has testified at prior hearings that he has no plans to develop the property, the zone change application lists “landowner flexibility” and the need for “housing for expected population growth” as reasons for the shift from a 20- to 10-acre parcel minimum.
The P&Z Commission recommended denial of the file in November 2021 on the grounds that surrounding infrastructure could not support a major housing project in the area. Despite this, commissioners voted 2-1 in February to approve the rezone, with Commissioners Dan McDonald and Jeff Connolly arguing that any concerns about infrastructure should be addressed during the subdivision process, should the landowners choose to go that route.
However, when commissioners took up the reconsideration request on March 22, new information came to light regarding when the board should begin to consider possible impacts of development.
In reviewing the reconsideration request — signed by Dave Bowman, chairman of Keep Bonner County Rural, and Kristina Kingsland, on behalf of nearly 30 neighbors — Deputy Prosecutor Bill Wilson told commissioners that one piece of the request, regarding the state’s Local Land Use Planning Act, would be worth reconsidering.
In short, according to Wilson, LLUPA may require governing bodies to consider potential impacts of development as early as the rezone stage.
“That is probably different than how we’ve handled some rezones in the past, and it kind of requires us also to get into hypotheticals because we don’t know what the development will be,” Wilson said March 22. “But we still have to try to honor the language in the state statute.”
Commissioners voted unanimously to reconsider the file, paying particular attention to whether “consideration has been given to the effects of the proposed zone change on the delivery of services by any political subdivision providing public services, including school districts,” according to the motion.
The reconsideration hearing will take place on Wednesday, April 20 at 1:30 p.m. at the Bonner County Administration Building, located at 1500 Highway 2 in Sandpoint.
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