After hearing testimony on proposed amendments to the County’s site disturbance ordinance, the Kootenai County Commissioners put off a decision until they can reconvene on April 28th to deliberate further. The proposal, which purports to fix some flaws in the law, also creates a huge loophole in the regulations that govern shoreline development and construction activities. Of the dozen or so witnesses heard by the Commissioners, only one spoke in favor of the amendments.
All of the commissioners agreed that the ordinance needs some fixing, but they seemed to differ in the extent of the fixes they were willing to entertain at this point. On the one hand, Commissioner Jai Nelson agreed that the ordinance needed some fixing, but had serious reservations about the inherent subjectivity that would be built in to the new language. She noted that other shoreline protection codes elsewhere in the country are more protective, more flexible and can be more objectively applied. She indicated that on this ordinance, she’d prefer to defer to the “creative potential” of the new code-writing consultants just hired by the County to overhaul zoning and development codes. On the other hand, Commissioner Todd Tondee said he was convinced there was an interim need for a broad exception for larger development projects, and he was untroubled by the subjective decision-making the amendments would require until the new codes come on line. Commissioner Green signaled that he was “philosophically against Band-Aid approache[s]” to ordinances at this point, but he was also convinced that some immediate fixes were necessary, and he was worried that worried that the broad loophole exemption might be too subjective and maybe “more radical than I’m prepared to pursue at this time.”
In the end, the Commissioners decided they just needed more time to more carefully consider the proposal, more carefully consider the testimony, and essentially, decide how much of a Band-Aid to apply. Commissioner Nelson said that she didn’t want to be simply “shooting an arrow and then drawing a bull’s-eye around where it lands.”