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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Kootenai County revising land-use codes

Kootenai County on Monday launched what is expected to be a two-year process to revise its land-use regulations.

The county has hired a nationwide planning firm that aims to create an extremely open public process. Draft code sections will be posted online for public comment. An online “webinar” will be held that will be open to anyone. And dozens of people have been appointed to committees and focus groups to solicit public input and discussion.

Kendig Keast Collaborative – hired by the county under a $311,500 contract – has assisted cities and counties from Washington to Florida with comprehensive plans, zoning and land-development codes.

Kootenai County adopted its new comprehensive plan in 2010, replacing one dating to 1994. Now, the county is embarking on the process of creating land-use codes that match the intent of the comprehensive plan.

This week, an advisory group, along with focus groups for topics including transportation, development and the environment, will begin to identify top issues. Public meetings also were scheduled in Athol, Harrison and Coeur d’Alene.

The advisory group will meet once a month throughout the process and act as a sounding board, discussing policy decisions and making recommendations.

All members were appointed by the county commissioners. They include representatives with backgrounds in environmental protection, home building, real estate, city management and neighborhood organization. The entire planning commission also belongs to the group.

Among the issues that immediately surfaced during the initial meeting Monday were: water quality, shoreline protection, protecting rural areas from sprawl, having clear land-use codes, protecting private property rights, balancing development while protecting natural resources, allowing creativity with land-use planning and shortening the building permit process.

Todd Messenger, who will lead the project for Kendig Keast, said the firm understands that Kootenai County is property rights-oriented but also concerned about protecting the natural environment. He said 80 percent of community values are usually shared, but people spend most of their time arguing about what they disagree on.

“If we can get 80 percent of what we want out of life,” Messenger said, “that’s pretty good.”