Bonner County to reconsider uses along area shorelines

Lakes Commission plans to hold special meeting this month

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Bonner County Planning and Zoning is asking stakeholders to weigh in on updating the county’s shoreline setback code, which restricts certain uses within 40 feet of area waterways in an effort to mitigate erosion and preserve water quality.

Commissioner Dan McDonald told the Sandpoint Reader that it was his idea to revisit the setback ordinances.

“Unfortunately, we are restricting full use of private property for things that will have zero effect on water quality and in fact, if changed, will help improve water quality,” he wrote in an email Nov. 2.

The shoreline along the Pend Oreille River. Courtesy photo.

McDonald said the county is hoping to work with stakeholders to establish a “list of things” that are acceptable within the established setback.

“As an example, you can’t have a patio or retaining wall higher than 36 inches with a concern about erosion, however patios are impermeable surfaces that actually reduce the effects of erosion and retaining walls hold back the possibility of erosion,” he said. “Structures that don’t off-cast any contaminants like those with metal roofs also do not present a potential harm to water quality and again reduce the possible area of erosion.”

McDonald said lawns will still not be allowed, “as the use of fertilizer presents a threat of nutrient loading.”

“The current ordinance is too general and doesn’t take into account good building and landscaping practices, but in my opinion is just a lazy blanket denial that keeps property owners from utilizing a very highly valued piece of their taxable property,” he continued.

In an email to stakeholders Oct. 26, Lakes Commission Executive Director Molly McCahon detailed the planning department’s outreach and shared a statement from Bonner County planner Jason Johnson.

“While this process will involve the normal noticing and comment periods that apply to any comprehensive plan amendment, we were hoping for more input, and earlier input, from interested stakeholder groups,” Johnson wrote. “It is hoped that this early input can help to inform this process and create a better finished product.”

Johnson continued on to say that the county is “hoping for input from written sources that can be cited: Studies and scientific sources with implementable recommendations, model codes, existing codes from other jurisdictions, case studies, current statistical and inventory data on Bonner County waterways, etc.” He also noted that it’s his department’s goal to have all input collected by the end of November.

The Lakes Commission — which studies and advocates for responsible treatment of waterways in Bonner County — is planning to hold a special meeting about county shoreline code during the month of November. To be added to the Lakes Commission mailing list and stay informed about meeting dates, email McCahon at [email protected].

“The Lakes Commission was involved during the initial creation of these setbacks in the early 2000s and we support the intention of these shoreline codes to protect water quality and decrease erosion,” McCahon said.

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