By Cameron Rasmusson
Sandpoint City Council approved a request last week to rezone part of a property near Sandpoint Airport from Industrial Technical Park to Residential Single Family.
The decision was a compromise in an ongoing debate over property development near the airport. Those who support residential development argue the town is sorely in need of more affordable housing but has few properties suitable for development. Others worry that development near the airport presents safety risks and may eventually lead to conflict with state and federal regulations.
Council members ultimately approved about four acres for rezoning of the eight-and-a-half-acre property on Mountain View Drive and Boyer Avenue. The rezoned portion falls outside of the airport’s Lateral Safety Zone, a restricted area due to its proximity to the runway.
The decision is a concrete decision by the city after months of debate surrounding several rezoning requests near the airport.
“We do have a comp plan goal that directs us to ensure that land use around the airport is compatible,” said Aaron Qualls, Sandpoint city planner, told council members at the meeting. “What that means is a little bit of a struggle at times.”
Both sides had their say in a comment period prior to council deliberation. Marty Taylor, a land use planner for J.A. Sewell and Associates representing the applicant, said the zoning request was in line with existing city code. That is the basis by which council members should judge the request, he said.
“I find it extremely problematic that there is information being submitted from the Idaho Transportation Department, from the Idaho Air Land Use Guidelines, none of which is applicable,” he told council members. “This project is governed by Sandpoint City Code.”
“It is not appropriate to use tomorrow’s standards for today’s projects,” he added.
Dave Schuck, Sandpoint Airport manager, opposed the rezoning request, citing potential safety issues. He noted that the Lateral Safety Zone wasn’t a direct dividing line that separated local residents from the noise and dangers of an airport. Rather, it denoted a general area where those factors might be a concern.
“We believe (Industrial Technical Park) is the correct zoning for this parcel,” he said.
Council members walked a delicate line in keeping public safety a top priority while also recognizing that Sandpoint badly needed additional residential development. The compromise a majority voted upon was to allow the rezoning on just over half the property outside the Lateral Safety Zone. While Qualls said it was an uncommon approach to zoning, it was a valid option for the council.
“I’m trying to take a holistic view of this whole thing and recognize that there’s health and safety issues here, there’s areas of the property that could be amenable to single family, and come up with some kind of compromise,” said City Council President Shannon Williamson.
After the vote, Taylor said he believed the compromise should be workable for everyone involved.
“I think we can work with roughly four acres and some change,” he told council members. “We’ll keep the west half for light industry, and that’ll help out the airport board and Dave’s concerns.”
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