Kootenai Environmental Alliance provided comments, again –and hopefully for the last time — on the long-awaited draft comprehensive plan revision for Kootenai County. In the works for four or five years at this point, the draft could gain final approval by the County Commissioners next month.
The hearing was nowhere near as lengthy, or heated, as previous hearings on the plan. Commissioners Tondee and Currie were in attendance, but Commissioner Piazza, reportedly hunting, was not. After about two hours of lukewarm testimony, the Commissioners closed the hearing, but put off any decision until a regularly scheduled meeting November 18th.
The strongest opposition came from the municipalities on the prairie who were critical of the plan’s handling of regions nearest the city limits. Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin and Hayden County planning official Lisa Key represented the cities’ concerns that the plan was confusing, somewhat contradictory, and not conducive to orderly city expansion. County Commissioner Todd Tondee questioned the testimony, however, noting that the area reserved by the cities for city expansion was significantly too large, and that the county needed to assert control over these areas where it is still primarily responsible for land use decisions.
Many of the comments from citizens concentrated on the need to restore explicit development densities to the plan. Many commenters suggested that without the numeric densities, the plan is an insufficient guide for the drafting of zoning ordinances and for decision-making regarding future development proposals.
County Commissioner candidates Jai Nelson and Dan Green were in attendance taking careful notes. But notable in its absence was testimony in support, or opposition, from the business and development community. The so-called “Citizens for Balance,” were nowhere to be found. Also not testifying were the Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Realtors, and the North Idaho Building and Contractors Association, all of which testified at prior hearings.
Perhaps nobody is expecting substantial changes from the same three commissioners who have already spent a year editing the plan. Unless these three commissioners duck this decision once and for all, this could very well have been the last comp plan hearing for a very long time. We should be so lucky.