By Zach Hagadone
Gone are the days when the Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commission was considered a sideshow to the City Council. More growth and development activity has occurred in the Sandpoint area over the past two years than in recent memory, and much of the nuts-and-bolts of that growth has first passed under the scrutiny of the P&Z Commission, making its meetings must-see.
In its first meeting of 2022, the body welcomed three new members: Amelia Boyd, Ben McGrann and Luke Omodt, all appointed by Mayor Shelby Rognstad and approved by the City Council in its first meeting of the year.
Boyd has been a Sandpoint resident for about six years and previously served on the Sandpoint Parks and Recreation Commission.
“I like to hike, I like the outdoors … and I look forward to serving on the commission,” she said.
McGrann came to the area in 2019, currently living in Dover, and worked in real estate and development in the Seattle area after a college career at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington and military service in Iraq.
“We wanted a better way of life for our family,” he said of his wife and two sons.
Omodt ran an unsuccessful campaign for Sandpoint City Council and recently announced his bid for the seat on the Bonner County Board of Commissioners currently held by Dan McDonald. A lifelong county resident, Omodt is a government teacher at Bonners Ferry High School and served 26 years of military service, including deployments in Europe and Iraq.
“I grew up in the Selle Valley, attended Northside [Elementary] School with Commissioner [Mose] Dunkel,” he said. “I’ve been a Sandpoint resident for 13 years, and I’ve been a Bonner County resident since 1979 and it’s a pleasure to serve.”
In addition to introducing its new members, the commission also elected as its chairperson Tom Hastings, who had previously served as vice chair and will take over the role from Jason Welker, who now serves on the City Council. In another unanimous vote, commissioners elected Mose Dunkel as vice chair.
Hastings congratulated Welker on his election to the City Council and honored outgoing Commissioners Cate Huisman and Tom Riggs — the former served the commission for 13 years and the latter for eight.
“They served our community well,” Hastings said.
Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton also introduced commission members to the new city planner, Amy Tweeten, who comes to Sandpoint from Petoskey, Mich., a resort community of about 5,700 on the northern shoreline of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
Stapleton said Tweeton brings decades of experience, “facing many of the same challenges we are facing here in Sandpoint.”
Daren Fluke had been serving as interim planner, as the city had been without a consistent, full-time planner since December 2020.
Fluke had served on a contractual basis, but Stapleton said that with the volume of planning and development activity in the city, he will likely still be involved.
“He will not be a stranger to the commission either, I suspect,” she said.
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