State planning conference to take place in Sandpoint

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

There are few other aspects of city government more impactful than City Planning. Whether dealing with the direction of the city streets, the sidewalks, the flow of traffic, or the direction growth takes in a given city, planning helps make sure the future growth is sustainable.

The Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) has elected to hold their 8th annual conference in Sandpoint this year, which is not only an honor for the town, but an economic boom to businesses during a quiet shoulder season.

“I planted the seed with Idaho APA a couple of years ago,” said Aaron Qualls, Sandpoint Planning and Economic Development Director. “They’re usually held in Boise and choose another city every other year … I first mentioned Sandpoint as a great town to host a small professional conference like this.”

The three-day conference will take place at the Sandpoint Center at 414 Church Street from Oct. 7-9. The theme of this year’s conference is “Rural Spaces and Urban Places: Charting the Future of Idaho.”

“I suggested that theme for selfish purposes,” said Qualls. “As Sandpoint and our region continues to grow, it’s appropriate to look at the differences between urban and rural environments. How do we want to grow? As more people move to Sandpoint to start businesses or to retire, what will that growth look like? I’m really excited to learn from the speakers.”

The annual conference will feature keynote speakers that are nationally recognized, as well as hosting break-out events at various downtown businesses. The topics covered include everything from smart growth to fire prevention to new signage restrictions.

According to Qualls, there will be around 100 people attending the conference, from all over Idaho, as well as parts of Washington and Montana.

“My goal is to set a new precedent for outside conferences coming to downtown during our shoulder seasons, when businesses struggle the most,” said Qualls. “You get to be re-inspired, and you get to stay current on planning issues throughout the state.”

For more information about the APA annual conference, go to

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