Rural no more?

Rezone request at Vay and Dufort roads is the ‘classic definition of spot zoning’

By Roger and Sandy Sparling
Reader Contributors

On Oct. 20, 2022, the Bonner County Zoning commissioners recommended approval of a zone change for the corner of Vay and Dufort roads. This area is currently zoned Rural 5, with a residential five-acre minimum lot size. The land use designation in the Comprehensive Plan is “Rural Residential” and, as such, can only be zoned either R-5 or R-10. Any other zone requires an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan.

The new buyer is requesting a zone change to “Neighborhood Commercial,” which is actually not a zone designation per Bonner Counter Zoning Code. It is, rather, a land use designation, and if this parcel were in the Neighborhood Commercial land use, then it would be allowed to be zoned as “Rural Service Center.”

The process called out in the code for this is to first apply for a Comprehensive Plan amendment then, if approved, apply for the zone change. The applicant, abetted by the Planning Department and the Zoning Commission, seeks to bypass this process and be granted a new zone designation, ostensibly to put a gas station/convenience store on this corner.

Although the application requests a change to Neighborhood Commercial, the narrative asks for a Rural Service Center designation, which for some unknown reason is supported in the staff report, even though completely inaccurate. The rezone request to change from R-5 to Rural Service Center, i.e. commercial zoning, is not legal because it does not adhere to the Comprehensive Plan (ORD. 501, 11-18-08).

Please note, that when a person purchases a piece of property, they have the right to do with the property as they will within the law. This request does not comply with the law. The owner knew the zoning was R-5 when he purchased the property. If approved, this rezone will provide unlawful special treatment, which only benefits the owner, while undermining the pre-existing rights and uses of surrounding property owners. This is the classic definition of spot zoning, which is unlawful.

 At the Zoning Commission hearing, it was revealed that the applicant wants to create five one-acre lots and maintain one larger lot on which they may or may not build a gas station. If this rezone is approved, there would be nothing that could stop them from building any of the uses listed below, because all are in the Rural Service Center Zone:

• duplexes;

• 11 single-family lots;

• cottage housing;

• convalescent center;

• hardware store;

• RV park;

• rental storage;

• motel or hotel;

• animal establishment;

• tavern or bar;

• townhouses;

• equipment sales and service;

• performing arts and recording studios;

• boat storage;

• vehicle sales.

The craftily written narrative that was submitted with the zoning change application addresses the area in question as a resort/recreational area, saying that these services are needed in this tourist area for visitors. Absolutely no one who lives in this area sees it as a resort/recreational tourist area. Many of the area residents are second- or third-generation homesteaders and farmers. So, who is this rezone for — the locals or tourists?

If approved by the county commissioners, it would set a precedent for bypassing the Comprehensive Plan — one of the pillars of zoning law and property rights — all in the interest of developers.

This rezone will go to the Bonner County commissioners for denial or approval on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 1:30 p.m. at the county administration building (1500 U.S. Hwy. 2 in Sandpoint). In the meantime, we have an opportunity to write to the county commissioners before Saturday, Dec. 10 to voice our objections. Please address letters to: Bonner County Commissioners, 1500 Hwy. 2, Sandpoint, ID 83864.

When writing reference ZC0012-22 Hammond Zoning Change Vay and Dufort roads.

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