Separate BoCo Planning, Zoning Commission members see approval

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

Bonner County commissioners unanimously approved the appointment of members to the newly formed — and now separate — Planning and Zoning commissions on March 29, marking a new era for how the county addresses land use decisions.

Planning Director Milton Ollerton, who presented the motions at the commissioners’ weekly Tuesday business meeting, said that his office received 18 applications to join the commissions, with some expressing interest in both and some having a preference toward either Planning or Zoning. The process for each new appointment included the submission of a letter of interest and resume, as well as interviews.

Commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 12 to approve a change to Bonner County Revised Code allowing the old commission to dissolve and the creation of the two new ones. The move was prompted by the extreme workload being handled by the single commission, as well as the need for an update to the Bonner County Comprehensive Plan. The P&Z volunteers were “burning out,” according to Commissioner Dan McDonald, as evidenced by their support for the two-commission system.

“We haven’t been able to complete the Comp Plan because they’ve been buried in files,” McDonald said March 29, “so this will help Planning to focus more on getting that Comp Plan completed so that we can get [it] enacted, which I think everybody is all for.”

Appointed to the Planning Commission are Allan Songstad, Josh Pilch, David Frankenbach, Don Davis, Brian Bailey, Wayne Benner and Debby Trinen. Appointed to the Zoning Commission are Sheryl Reeve, Frank Wakeley, Luke Webster, Jacob Marble and Matt Linscott. 

Of those members, Frankenbach, Davis, Bailey and Reeve enter their new roles fresh off of serving the preexisting P&Z Commission.

Under the new two-commission system, the Planning Commission will work on updating the Comp Plan and issue recommendations on Comp Plan text and map amendments, as well as county-initiated zone changes. The Zoning Commission will issue recommendations to the county commissioners regarding citizen-initiated zone changes, subdivisions and planned unit developments. The Zoning Commission will also issue official decisions on quasi-judicial files, variances and conditional use permits, which will only see the county commissioners if appealed to that level.

“I’m excited that we got 18 applications. I think the board had a good list of names to choose from and to work with and to interview,” Ollerton said, noting that his office is “extremely busy” and the adoption of two commissions to sift through the workload will be a big help.

“These folks are appointed to one, two and three-year terms. The future boards will have the opportunity to review and appoint going down the road,” he continued. “We need these commissions in place. We have work to do. We have public hearings scheduled already in April. We need to do the people’s business.”

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