Bonner County P&Z to consider mining code changes Jan. 7

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Long discussed and heavily opposed amendments to Bonner County’s Title 12 mining code are scheduled to see a public hearing Thursday, Jan. 7, as the county’s Planning and Zoning board will take up the changes after months of workshops and rescheduling.

The amendments introduce a new permitting mechanism called a certificate of zoning compliance, which is issued administratively by the planning director and does not require a public hearing — and therefore, no public input. Under the changed code, existing and temporary mining stone quarries, gravel pits, stone mills, and open pits would require only the zoning certificate; new permanent mining stone quarries, gravel pits and stone mills would require a CUP; and rock blasting would be allowed in any permanent quarry.

The version of the amendments finalized during the planning and zoning board’s Nov. 5 workshop are the ones being considered at the January hearing, and are available to review at bonnercountyid.gov. Head to the “Planning” page, click on “Current Projects’’ and select “File AM0011-20 — Bonner County — Text Amendment, Title 12.”

A hallmark of the entire process has been vocal community pushback from people concerned that the amendments will open up rural and agricultural areas of Bonner County to widespread and quickly permitted mining operations. An initially proposed change to the code that would have allowed asphalt batch plants outside of industrial zones without a conditional use permit — and, therefore, no public hearing — was eventually struck down due to widespread opposition.

Throughout the workshops, planning staff has maintained that the purpose of the amendments is to provide clarity to a portion of “vague” code. Planning Director Milton Ollerton told the Sandpoint Reader in August that Bonner County “continually gets asked to move out of the way of private property owners and the way they choose to use their property,” and that the certificate of zoning compliance is one way to make that happen. At the Nov. 5 workshop, while addressing community concerns about the code amendments, Ollerton said: “Mining is a part of daily life. We need it. It belongs somewhere.”

The Jan. 7 public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Bonner County Administration Building. The in-person meeting audience is currently limited to 10 people in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but people are welcome to participate in the hearing via Zoom or phone. Information about how to join the meeting through computer or phone is available at bonnercountyid.gov/PZHearings. Comments can also be submitted ahead of time by emailing [email protected]

For watching and listening purposes only, hearings are live streamed through YouTube on the Bonner County Planning channel.

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