This week, the Kootenai County Planning Commission will consider two draft amendments to the county’s site disturbance ordinance. One draft, submitted by County staff, would add variance and appeal procedures to the ordinance. Another, submitted by a local planning and development firm, would create several potentially broad new exceptions to the ordinance.
The site disturbance ordinance, of course, provides detailed regulation on how a property can be developed, and in particular, the ordinance creates critical undisturbed and vegetated buffer zones which protect our local waterbodies from runoff and erosion.
Some months ago, the Kootenai County Commissioners agreed with a hearing examiner and KEA that the current site disturbance ordinance provided no legal authority for a variance, and thus a request for a variance to allow disturbance of a portion of Hayden Lake’s shoreline was denied. In an effort to plug the regulatory gap, the County’s planning and legal staff has drafted an amendment to the ordinance (link to pdf here) that would allow for variances and appeals, which most land use laws allow.
Meanwhile, e2 Planning and Design, a Post Falls firm which represents developers (and which represented the development denied the variance on Hayden Lake), has drafted an amendment to the site disturbance ordinance which would allow “installation of new improvements” in the buffer zones if they are recommended by a “design professional” and they “meet the definition of a best management practice.” The County planning and legal staff has attempted to amend the developers’ draft to provide clearer guidance and tighter language (a pdf of the county’s amended draft is here), but at a workshop meeting of the Planning Commission this morning, the development firm appeared to balk at the County’s re-write.
KEA is currently developing comments on the two proposed amendments and will appear at the Planning Commission’s public hearing on Thursday evening. KEA has minor concerns about the County’s proposed variance and appeals amendment and major concerns about the development firm’s amendment. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 6/25: More on this later this weekend, but last night, the Planning Commission unanimously passed the County’s proposed variance legislation, and it unanimously tabled the proposal from e2 Planning and Development until concerns from KEA, DEQ, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the County were resolved. Legal interns Sean Waite and Jeff Briggs testified most impressively and wrote the bulk of KEA’s comments available at our website.