Growth, Land Use, and Planning in Bonner County, Idaho Situation Assessment

Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program   383  South  University  Street,  Salt  Lake  City,  UT  84112

www.law.utah.edu/projects/edr/   EDR  Blog:  www.edrblog.org

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Growth,  Land  Use,  and  Planning  in

Bonner  County,  Idaho

Situation  Assessment

December  2016

 

Prepared  by  the

Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program

at  the  University  of  Utah

 

Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program   383  South  University  Street,  Salt  Lake  City,  UT  84112

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Acknowledgements   This  assessment  was  conducted  by  Danya  Rumore,  Ph.D.,  and  Katherine  Daly  from  the   University  of  Utah  Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  (EDR)  Program.  Dr.  Rumore  is  a   neutral  facilitator  and  the  Associate  Director  of  the  EDR  Program.  Katherine  Daly  is  a   graduate  student  in  City  and  Metropolitan  Planning  at  the  University  of  Utah  and  an  EDR   Program  fellow.       This  assessment  was  commissioned  by  Project  7B  in  partnership  with  the  City  of  Dover,   the  City  of  Priest  River,  the  City  of  Sandpoint,  the  Selkirk  Realtors  Association,  and  the   Kinnickinnick  Native  Plant  Society.  Project  7B  is  a  citizen  group  whose  mission  is  to   educate  and  engage  Bonner  County  residents  in  constructive  dialogue  about  land  use   planning  and  to  facilitate  land  use  and  planning  related  collaboration  among  local   entities.  Funding  for  this  assessment  was  provided  by  a  grant  from  the  LOR  Foundation.   Any  errors  or  omissions  are  unintentional  and  are  the  sole  responsibility  of  Dr.  Rumore.

About  the  Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program   The  University  of  Utah’s  EDR  Program  promotes  collaboration,  mediation,  stakeholder   engagement,  and  other  alternative  dispute  resolution  (ADR)  processes  as  a  means  to   address  environmental  and  public  policy  conflicts  in  Utah  and  the  mountain  west.  We   do  so  through  providing  process  design,  facilitation,  mediation,  stakeholder   engagement,  public  education,  and  capacity  building  services,  as  well  as  through   academic  instruction,  research,  and  analysis.

The  EDR  Program  approach  redefines  the  meaning  of  ADR,  which  is  usually  thought  of   as  an  alternative  to  litigation,  to  mean  “additional  dialogue  required.”  In  line  with  this   philosophy,  we  emphasize  creating  opportunities  for  dialogue,  mutual  understanding,   and  collaborative  problem  solving.  This  approach  builds  long-­‐term  relationships  and   produces  enduring  and  creative  on-­‐the-­‐ground  results.

 

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Contents   SITUATION  ASSESSMENT  BACKGROUND  …………………………………………………………….  5

SUMMARY  OF  FINDINGS  ………………………………………………………………………………….  5

VISION  AND  PRIORITIES  FOR  BONNER  COUNTY  …………………………………………………..  7

PRESERVE  AND  ENHANCE  COMMUNITY  CHARACTER  AND  COHESION  ……………………………………….  7   MAKE  BONNER  COUNTY  A  PLACE  WHERE  PEOPLE  IN  ALL  STAGES  OF  LIFE  CAN  AFFORD  TO  LIVE,  WORK,   AND  PLAY  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………  7   FOSTER  AND  INVEST  IN  BUILDING  A  VIBRANT  ECONOMY  ……………………………………………………..  8   PROTECT  THE  COUNTY’S  RURAL  CHARACTER  …………………………………………………………………..  8   PROTECT  THE  COUNTY’S  WATER  QUALITY,  LAKES,  AND  OTHER  WATER  BODIES  …………………………..  9   PRESERVE  THE  COUNTY’S  GREEN  SPACE,  NATURAL  BEAUTY,  AND  OPPORTUNITIES  FOR  RECREATION  AND   HUNTING  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………  9   DEVELOP  IN  A  THOUGHTFUL,  INTELLIGENT,  ORDERLY,  AND  RESPONSIBLE  WAY  ……………………………  9   BALANCE  PRIVATE  PROPERTY  RIGHTS  WITH  COMMUNITY  CONCERNS  …………………………………….  11   MAKE  GOVERNMENT  EFFICIENT,  EFFECTIVE,  AND  TRANSPARENT  ………………………………………….  11

SOURCES  OF  TENSION  AND  DISAGREEMENT  ……………………………………………………..  13

PERSPECTIVES  ON  PRIVATE  PROPERTY  RIGHTS,  FREEDOM,  AND  PERSONAL  RESPONSIBILITY  ……………  13   PERSPECTIVES  ON  ECONOMIC  DEVELOPMENT  AND  FISCAL  RESPONSIBILITY  ………………………………  14   STRONG  POLITICAL  IDEOLOGIES  ………………………………………………………………………………..  14

SPECIFIC  CONCERNS  ………………………………………………………………………………………  14

RISK  OF  UNSUSTAINABLE  DEVELOPMENT  IN  AREAS  OF  CITY  IMPACT  ………………………………………  15   RISK  OF  SPRAWL  AND  UNSUSTAINABLE  GROWTH  ……………………………………………………………  16   RISK  OF  CREATING  A  “BUYER  BEWARE”  SITUATION  FOR  PROPERTIES  AND  BUILDINGS  ………………….  16   CONCERNS  ASSOCIATED  WITH  AFFORDABILITY  OF  HOUSING  AND  COST  OF  LIVING  ………………………  17   THREATS  TO  WATER  QUALITY  ………………………………………………………………………………….  18   CONCERNS  ASSOCIATED  WITH  DIVISIVE  POLITICS  …………………………………………………………….  19   GEOGRAPHIC  AREAS  OF  PARTICULAR  CONCERN  ……………………………………………………………..  19

PERSPECTIVES  ON  ENGAGING  KEY  STAKEHOLDERS  AND  THE  PUBLIC  …………………….  19

REINSTATE  THE  PRIOR  BONNER  COUNTY  ENGAGEMENT  AND  REVIEW  PROCESS  FOR  PLANNING  RELATED   DECISION-­‐MAKING  ………………………………………………………………………………………………  20   HOLD  LEARNING  FORUMS  PRIOR  TO  DECISION-­‐MAKING  FORUMS  ………………………………………..  20   MEANINGFULLY  ENGAGE  STAKEHOLDERS  AND  THE  PUBLIC  IN  REVISITING  COMPREHENSIVE  PLANS  …..  20   MEANINGFULLY  ENGAGE  THE  COMMUNITY  IN  CLARIFYING  COUNTYWIDE  VALUES  ………………………  21   MEANINGFULLY  ENGAGE  STAKEHOLDERS  IN  REVIEWING  AND  STREAMLINING  POLICIES  AND  PROCESSES  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..  21   FOSTER  PRODUCTIVE  PUBLIC  CONVERSATION  ABOUT  GROWTH,  LAND  USE,  PLANNING,  AND  RELATED   CONCERNS  ………………………………………………………………………………………………………..  22   ILLUMINATE  WHAT  IS  AT  STAKE  BY  VISUALIZING  SCENARIOS  AND  OPTIONS  ………………………………  22

 

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IMPROVE  EDUCATION  AND  INFORMATION  SHARING  …………………………………………………………  22   ENCOURAGE  PEOPLE  TO  UTILIZE  EXISTING  OPPORTUNITIES  TO  ENGAGE  –  AND  TO  ENGAGE   PRODUCTIVELY  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………  23   USE  MULTIPLE  APPROACHES  TO  GET  THE  WORD  OUT  ……………………………………………………..  24   ENGAGE  THE  “SUNBIRDS”  ………………………………………………………………………………………  24

PERSPECTIVES  ON  COUNTYWIDE  COORDINATION  AND  COLLABORATION  ………………  24

BENEFITS  OF  IMPROVED  COUNTYWIDE  COLLABORATION  ……………………………………………………  25   POTENTIAL  MODELS  AND  APPROACHES  FOR  COUNTYWIDE  COLLABORATION  …………………………….  26   CONCERNS  AND  CHALLENGES  FOR  COUNTYWIDE  COLLABORATION  AND/OR  REGIONALIZATION  OF   SERVICES  …………………………………………………………………………………………………………..  27

APPENDIX  A:  LIST  OF  STAKEHOLDER  GROUPS  AND  JURISDICTIONS  REPRESENTED  …..  28

 

 

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SITUATION  ASSESSMENT  BACKGROUND     During  the  summer  and  fall  of  2016,  Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program  staff   conducted  in-­‐depth  confidential  interviews  with  30  individuals  representing  a  diverse   range  of  stakeholder  groups  in  Bonner  County,  Idaho.  The  intent  of  these  interviews  was   to  illuminate  the  diversity  of  perspectives,  areas  of  agreement  and  disagreement,  and   opportunities  and  challenges  related  to  growth,  land  use,  and  planning  in  the  county.  A   list  of  stakeholder  groups  and  jurisdictions  represented  by  interviewees  is  provided  in   Appendix  A.       This  report  shares  the  findings  from  this  assessment,  which  are  organized  according  to:   summary  of  findings;  vision  and  priorities  for  Bonner  County;  sources  of  tension  and   disagreement;  specific  concerns;  perspectives  on  engaging  key  stakeholders  and  the   public;  and  perspectives  on  countywide  coordination  and  collaboration.

SUMMARY  OF  FINDINGS       Interviewees  generally  agreed  on  the  following  priorities  for  Bonner  County:

• Preserve  and  enhance  community  character  and  cohesion   • Make  Bonner  County  a  place  where  people  in  all  stages  of  life  can  afford  to  live,

work,  and  play   • Foster  and  invest  in  building  a  vibrant  economy   • Preserve  and  enhance  the  county’s  rural  character   • Protect  the  county’s  water  quality,  lakes,  and  other  water  bodies   • Preserve  the  county’s  green  space,  natural  beauty,  and  opportunities  for

recreation  and  hunting   • Develop  in  a  thoughtful,  intelligent,  orderly,  and  responsible  way   • Balance  private  property  rights  with  community  concerns   • Make  government  efficient,  effective,  and  transparent

Interviewees  commonly  identified  the  following  growth,  development,  and  planning   related  sources  of  tension  and  disagreement:

• Perspectives  on  private  property  rights,  freedom,  and  personal  responsibility   • Perspectives  on  the  inevitability,  desirability,  and  risks  of  countywide  growth   • Perspectives  on  economic  development  and  fiscal  responsibility   • Strong  political  ideologies

 

 

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Specific  growth,  development,  and  planning  related  concerns  identified  included:   • Concerns  associated  with  recent  Bonner  County  planning  changes   • Risk  of  unsustainable  development  in  Areas  of  City  Impact  (ACIs)   • Risk  of  sprawl  and  unsustainable  growth   • Risk  of  creating  a  “buyer  beware”  situation  for  properties  and  buildings   • Concerns  associated  with  affordability  of  housing  and  cost  of  living   • Threats  to  water  quality   • Concerns  associated  with  divisive  politics   • Concern  about  development  in  the  following  geographic  areas:

o Lakefront  and  floodplain  properties   o The  corridor  along  Highway  95   o The  Selle  Valley

Interviewees  generally  saw  significant  value  in  stakeholder  and  public  education  and   engagement  around  growth,  development,  and  planning  related  concerns.  They   recommended  the  following  strategies  for  enhancing  stakeholder  and  public  education   and  engagement:

• Reinstate  the  prior  Bonner  County  engagement  and  review  process  for  planning   related  decision  making

• Hold  learning  forums  prior  to  decision  making  forums   • Meaningfully  engage  stakeholders  and  the  public  in  revisiting  comprehensive

plans   • Meaningfully  engage  the  community  in  clarifying  countywide  values   • Meaningfully  engage  stakeholders  in  reviewing  and  streamlining  policies  and

processes   • Foster  productive  public  conversation  about  growth,  land  use,  planning,  and

related  concerns   • Illuminate  what  is  at  stake  by  visualizing  scenarios  and  options   • Improve  education  and  information  sharing   • Encourage  people  to  utilize  existing  opportunities  to  engage,  and  to  do  so

productively   • Use  multiple  approaches  to  get  the  word  out   • Engage  the  “sunbirds”

Almost  all  interviewees  saw  great  value  in—and  identified  a  number  of  benefits   associated  with—improved  communication,  coordination,  and  collaboration  among   local  governments.  They  identified  some  potential  coordination  models  and  approaches   that  might  assist  with  improved  countywide  coordination  around  growth,  land  use,  and   planning  related  concerns.  They  also  identified  some  concerns  and  challenges  that  need   to  be  considered  when  undertaking  these  kinds  of  efforts.

 

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Many  interviewees  also  saw  value  in  regionalization  of  certain  services.  However,  there   was  less  agreement  about  this  than  there  was  about  the  value  of  greater  countywide   collaboration.  Interviewees  identified  a  number  of  challenges  and  concerns  that  should   be  considered  when  thinking  about  the  possibility  of  regionalizing  services.

VISION  AND  PRIORITIES  FOR  BONNER  COUNTY     All  interviewees  were  asked  to  share  their  visions  for  Bonner  County  and,  where   appropriate,  their  visions  for  the  jurisdictions  they  represent  or  live  in.  The  following  are   key  themes  that  emerged  in  terms  of  priorities  and  values  related  to  growth,  land  use,   and  planning  concerns.     Preserve  and  Enhance  Community  Character  and  Cohesion   Interviewees  generally  shared  the  belief  that  Bonner  County  is  a  special  place  and  that   Bonner  County  residents  are  passionate  about  where  they  live.  Many  people  expressed   appreciation  for  the  “quaint,  small  town  feel”  and  “friendliness”  of  Bonner  County  and   its  municipalities.  Interviewees  often  reflected  on  the  fact  that  people  in  the  county   tend  to  be  very  community-­‐oriented,  they  work  well  together,  and  they  generally   prioritize  working  through  differences.  As  one  interviewee  said,  “People  here  have  a   heart  for  each  other  –  that’s  what  makes  this  area  special.”       As  discussed  further  below,  some  interviewees  expressed  concern  about  recent  political   shifts  at  the  national  and  local  level  creating  more  divisiveness  in  the  county  and  the   implications  of  this  for  the  community  feel.       The  general  sentiment  among  interviewees  who  spoke  about  community  character  was   that  they  would  like  to  see  the  small  town  feel,  friendliness,  and  community-­‐oriented   nature  of  Bonner  County  and  its  municipalities  preserved  and  enhanced.     Make  Bonner  County  a  Place  Where  People  in  All  Stages  of  Life  Can  Afford   to  Live,  Work,  and  Play   Numerous  interviewees  expressed  a  desire  for  Bonner  County  to  be  a  place  where   people  in  all  stages  of  life  can  afford  to  live,  work,  and  play.  Many  people  noted  that   land  and  housing  have  become  more  expensive,  voicing  a  concern  that  this  is  making  it   harder  for  residents  to  stay  in  Bonner  County.  Some  interviewees  attributed  this   increase  in  housing  prices  to  the  desirability  of  Bonner  County  as  a  place  to  live  and   have  a  second  home,  and  the  resultant  influx  of  people,  particularly  the  wealthy.  Others   ascribed  housing  price  increases  to  regulations  constraining  development  and/or  the   lack  of  developable  land  in  the  county.

 

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Regardless  of  what  they  saw  as  the  cause  of  increasing  housing  prices,  interviewees  who   talked  about  housing  affordability  and  cost  of  living  seemed  to  agree  that  making   Bonner  County  a  place  people  can  “grow  up  and  stay”  requires  addressing  both  the   affordability  of  housing  and  also  creating  more  year-­‐round  jobs  with  salaries   commensurate  to  the  cost  of  living.     Foster  and  Invest  in  Building  a  Vibrant  Economy   Interviewees  seemed  to  generally  agree  that  they  would  like  Bonner  County  and  its   municipalities  to  have  vibrant,  thriving,  diversified  economies.  Many  people  noted  the   need  for  more  year-­‐round,  sustainable  jobs  and  economic  opportunities  that  are  on  par   with  the  cost  of  living  in  the  region.  Some  interviewees  mentioned  that  they  want   Bonner  County  to  be  a  place  where  businesses  “come  and  stay.”  A  few  interviewees  said   that  investing  in  effective  digital  infrastructure  and  creating  a  well-­‐educated  and  trained   workforce  could  help  make  Bonner  County  an  attractive  place  for  businesses.   Interviewees  mentioned  tourism,  timber,  food  production,  aerospace,  biomedical,  and   other  “high  tech  and  knowledge-­‐based  industries”  as  key  economic  sectors.     Protect  the  County’s  Rural  Character   The  majority  of  interviewees  expressed  a  desire  to  preserve  Bonner  County’s  rural   character.  Interviewees  also  noted  that  residents  throughout  the  county  seem  to  share   this  sentiment,  citing  the  results  of  the  2014  Bonner  County  Community  Survey  and   previous  Bonner  County  surveys.

A  number  of  interviewees  said  it  is  clear  that  Bonner  County  residents  value  the  rural   character  of  the  county  and  want  to  protect  it,  but  it  is  less  clear  what  “rural”  means.   Interviewees  themselves  expressed  somewhat  differing  ideas  of  the  definition.  For   example,  some  interviewees  indicated  rural  areas  should  be  largely  residential.  Others   suggested  that  they  would  like  to  see  Bonner  County’s  rural  areas  be  a  “working   landscape”  with  agriculture,  light  industry,  and  dirt  roads.

Despite  differing  perspectives  on  exactly  what  rural  means,  people  seemed  to  agree   that  protecting  ruralness  requires  organized  development  and/or  avoiding  sprawl.  Some   people  felt  that  preserving  rural  character  in  the  face  of  growth  pressures  will  require   increasing  the  density  of  urban  areas,  but  others  questioned  the  desirability  of  increased   density.

Some  interviewees  noted  that  the  Bonner  County  Comprehensive  Plan  emphasizes   protecting  the  rural  character  of  the  county.  A  couple  people  indicated  they  are  not   worried  about  Bonner  County  losing  its  rural  nature  due  to  development,  saying  a  large   portion  of  the  county  is  not  currently  developable  by  private  entities  because  it  is   federal  or  state  public  land,  or  another  type  of  protected  land.  Other  interviewees   expressed  significant  concern  about  how  failing  to  effectively  plan  ahead  and  easing   land  use  regulations,  permitting  processes,  and  development  oversight  could  jeopardize

 

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the  rural  landscape  by  allowing  haphazard,  “willy-­‐nilly,”  or  unmanaged  growth  and   development.

Protect  the  County’s  Water  Quality,  Lakes,  and  Other  Water  Bodies   Protecting  Bonner  County’s  clean,  safe  water,  Lake  Pend  Oreille,  and  the  other  lakes  and   water  bodies  in  the  county  was  cited  as  a  key  priority  by  most  interviewees.  These   interviewees  also  commonly  felt  that  most  people  in  the  county  share  this  perspective.   Bonner  County  Community  Survey  respondents  also  identified  water  quality  as  a  top   value.       Interviewees  seemed  to  agree  that  certain  land  uses  could  impact  the  county’s  lakes,   other  water  bodies,  and  water  quality,  and  that  negative  impacts  should  be  avoided.   However,  they  differed  in  their  perspectives  about  the  extent  to  which  recent  changes   in  county  land  use  planning,  regulations,  and  permitting  requirements  presented  a  risk   to  water  quality.  They  also  held  differing  perspectives  regarding  the  role  that   government  planning  and  regulation  should  play  in  protecting  water  quality  and  water   bodies.     Preserve  the  County’s  Green  Space,  Natural  Beauty,  and  Opportunities  for   Recreation  and  Hunting   Many  interviewees  noted  that  the  region’s  green  space,  natural  beauty,  and  recreation   and  hunting  opportunities  are  part  of  what  makes  Bonner  County  special  and  such  a   great  place  to  live  and  visit.  Respondents  of  the  2014  Bonner  County  Community  Survey   also  identified  recreation  and  access  as  a  key  value.  There  seemed  to  be  general   agreement  among  interviewees  that  people  do  not  want  to  lose  or  compromise  these   amenities.     Develop  in  a  Thoughtful,  Intelligent,  Orderly,  and  Responsible  Way   The  strong  majority  of  interviewees,  including  people  from  diverse  stakeholder  groups   and  political  leanings,  held  the  perspective  that  regional  growth  is  unavoidable  and  that   the  county  needs  to  focus  on  growing  in  a  way  that  is,  to  use  interviewees’  words,   “intelligent,”  “orderly,”  “good,”  “thoughtful,”  and  “responsible.”  Interviewees  described   their  vision  of  how  this  should  occur  in  somewhat  differing  ways.  However,  they  seemed   to  share  an  aspiration  for  the  region  to  avoid  “willy-­‐nilly”  and  “haphazard”  development   and  to  grow  in  a  way  that  protects  the  values  discussed  above.     Interviewees  commonly  said  they  would  like  to  see  development  happen  in  such  a  way   as  to:  avoid  sprawl;  leverage  existing  services,  such  as  water  and  sewer  systems;  and   avoid  unnecessarily  increasing  the  financial  burden  on  local  government  and  tax  payers.   Many  people  also  expressed  an  interest  in  preventing  traffic,  increasing  access  to  basic   services  and  improving  walkability  in  the  county’s  communities  (not  just  Sandpoint),  and   continuing  to  expand  public  transportation  and  non-­‐motorized  transportation  options   throughout  the  region.

 

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Some  interviewees  said  they  would  like  to  prevent  Bonner  County  from  developing  like   Kootenai  County,  which  was  perceived  to  be  sprawling.  Many  interviewees  specifically   cited  sprawl  along  Highway  95  near  Coeur  d’  Alene  and  Hayden  as  a  development   pattern  they  would  like  to  avoid.       Some  interviewees  suggested  the  region  should  think  about  developing  in  a  “polycentric”   way,  i.e.,  by  focusing  on  developing  urban  villages  and  preserving  open  space  between   these  centers  of  development.  Some  people  felt  that  increasing  urban  density  in   Sandpoint  and  the  surrounding  municipalities  could  help  manage  growth,  provide  more   affordable  housing,  and  increase  tax  revenues  for  the  cities  and  the  county.  One   emphasized  the  fact  that  increased  density  in  the  cities  would  generate  more  tax   revenue  for  the  county  without  greatly  increasing  use  of  county  services.  While  a   number  of  interviewees  expressed  support  for  increased  density  in  the  cities,  others   raised  questions  about  the  desirability  of,  and  appropriate  locations  for,  increased  urban   density.     Almost  all  interviewees  indicated  that  growth  is  inevitable.  One  interviewee,  however,   expressed  a  strong  desire  to  have  the  area  not  grow  or  change,  although  he  did  not   offer  any  ideas  about  how  to  prevent  growth  and  development.  According  to   interviewees,  many  county  residents  share  this  desire  to  not  have  the  area  change.   Interviewees  generally  felt  this  desire  to  “close  the  door”  is  not  realistic.     A  number  of  interviewees  felt  that  growth  is  not  only  unavoidable,  but  that  it  is   desirable.  These  interviewees  indicated  that  countywide  growth  presents  important   opportunities  for  economic  development,  job  creation,  increasing  the  tax  base  for  local   government,  and  enhancing  community  services.     It  is  important  to  note  that,  as  further  discussed  below,  there  were  striking  differences   in  interviewee  perspectives  on  the  role  that  regulation,  government  planning,  and  land   use  policies  should  play  in  supporting  and  ensuring  that  growth  and  development  occur   in  “intelligent,”  “orderly,”  “good,”  “thoughtful,”  and  “responsible”  ways.  That  said,   many  interviewees  noted  development  should  happen  in  such  a  way  as  to  protect   individual  property  rights  as  well  as  the  rights  of  their  neighbors  and  community   members.       It  is  also  important  to  note  that  interviewees  generally  steered  away  from  using  the   term  “smart  growth,”  indicating  that  term  has  developed  a  negative  stigma  that  might   get  in  the  way  of  productive  conversation  about  how  to  achieve  “good  growth”  and   avoid  “bad  growth.”     A  few  interviewees  indicated  they  would  like  Bonner  County  to  become  an  example  of  a   place  that  “does  it  right”  and  maintains  community  character,  ruralness,  and

 

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affordability  in  the  face  of  intense  growth  pressures.  These  interviewees  cited  the   following  as  some  examples  of  places  they  felt  had  not  steered  growth  in  intelligent   and/or  good  ways:  Coeur  d’Alene  and  Hayden,  Idaho;  Tahoe,  California;  Jackson,   Wyoming;  Bozeman,  Montana;  and  Aspen,  Colorado.  It  was  suggested  that  Bonner   County  could  perhaps  learn  from  these  negative  examples  and  avoid  similar  pitfalls.

Balance  Private  Property  Rights  with  Community  Concerns   As  noted  above,  a  common  theme  in  almost  all  interviews  was  the  need  to  balance   private  property  rights  with  government  land  use  planning  and  regulation  –  and  the   challenges  associated  with  doing  so.  Interviewees  seemed  to  agree  that  private  property   rights  are  important  and  should  be  respected.  The  majority  of  interviewees  also  noted   that  one  individual’s  private  property  rights  can  interfere  with  another’s  private   property  rights  or  freedoms.  Most  interviewees  argued  that  a  balance  needs  to  be   struck  between  protecting  individual  freedoms  and  managing  the  impact  people  can   have  on  one  another,  shared  resources,  and  each  other’s  property  values.  One  person   summed  up  this  sentiment:  “One  person’s  right  to  punch  ends  at  the  tip  of  another’s   nose.”       People  seemed  to  agree  that  there  is  a  balance  between,  as  one  person  put  it,  “proper   regulation”  on  one  hand  and  “over  regulation”  on  the  other.  They  also  noted  that   people  in  the  county  seem  to  have  different  perspectives  on  where  this  line  falls.   Interviewees  embodied  this  divide.  A  few  said  land  use  and  development  in  Bonner   County  are  currently  overregulated,  while  many  others  indicated  that  additional   planning  and  oversight  might  be  helpful  for  protecting  the  things  people  hold  dear  and   furthering  county  and  municipal  goals.       Some  interviewees  said  thoughtful  planning  and  zoning  processes  actually  help  protect   property  rights.  A  few  suggested,  for  example,  that  planning  and  zoning  can  ensure  that   neighborhoods  “do  not  grow  up  around  industry  and  push  industry  out”  or  create  other   major  conflicts.  They  gave  examples  including  the  conflicts  Wildwood  Grilling  on   Shinglemill  Road  has  experienced  with  the  nearby  neighborhood,  and  issues  created  by   neighborhoods  abutting  timber  lands.  It  was  suggested  that  government  planning  can   help  neighborhoods  stay  neighborhoods  and  industry  areas  stay  industry  areas.     A  few  interviewees  noted  that  many  people  have  recently  moved  into  the  region  who   highly  value  private  property  rights  and,  as  some  described  it,  want  their  “own  private   Idaho.”  They  feel  this  is  accentuating  the  tension  around  balancing  private  property   rights  and  government  planning,  and  recommended  fostering  a  productive  community   conversation  about  how  to  achieve  this  balance.       Make  Government  Efficient,  Effective,  and  Transparent   Interviewees  commonly  expressed  a  desire  for  local  government  to  be  efficient,   effective,  and  transparent.

 

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Many  people  felt  there  should  be  proper  “checks  and  balances”  on  individual  behavior,   and  they  see  value  in  local  government  playing  a  role  in  that  process.  These   interviewees  would  like  to  see  local  government  help  ensure  regional  growth  and   development  happen  in  thoughtful,  intentional,  and  not  “willy-­‐nilly”  or  “ramshackle”   ways  that  are  mindful  of  private  property  rights.  These  interviewees  seemed  to  hold  the   perspective  that  local  government  can  provide  meaningful  oversight  without  “bogging   things  down”  or  imposing  unnecessary  costs  on  residents.       Interviewees  who  reflected  on  local  government  function  seemed  to  agree  that   government  should  be  as  streamlined  and  efficient  as  possible.  Most  of  those  people   also  noted,  however,  that  streamlining  should  not  come  at  the  expense  of  achieving  the   intended  goals  of  government  departments,  programs,  and  policies.  They  also  seemed   to  agree  that  local  government  should  be  as  user-­‐friendly  as  possible,  but  –  again  –  that   being  user-­‐friendly  should  not  compromise  the  ability  of  local  government  to  achieve  its   intended  oversight  and  support  objectives.     Many  people  agreed  there  are  important  opportunities  for  increasing  the  efficiency  and   effectiveness  of  local  government  planning  efforts  and  that  they  would  like  to  see  local   government  work  collaboratively  and  transparently  to  identify  these  opportunities  and   make  positive  changes.  The  following  strategies  were  identified:

• Ensure  effective  two-­‐way  communication  with  stakeholders  and  the  public   around  proposed  changes.  Many  interviewees  suggested  that  meetings  should   be  well  publicized  and  held  at  times  that  are  likely  to  work  for  a  diversity  of   residents.  They  often  expressed  a  perspective  that  effective  communication   requires  creating  forums  for  educating  the  public  and  listening  to  people’s   concerns  prior  to  making  decisions.  In  line  with  this,  many  interviewees   expressed  frustration  with  the  lack  of  well  publicized  workshops  prior  to   hearings  on  Bonner  County’s  recent  proposed  planning  related  changes.  On  a   similar  vein,  some  interviewees  felt  that  both  local  government  representatives   and  citizens  need  to  do  a  better  job  of  active  listening  and  truly  trying  to   understand  what  others  are  saying.  Many  emphasized  how  important  it  is  for   members  of  the  public  to  take  responsibility  for  ensuring  they  are  informed   about  local  planning  issues.  The  topic  of  public  engagement  is  discussed  further   below.

• Digitalize  records,  such  as  deeds  and  septic  permits.  A  couple  interviewees  said   that  digitalizing  records,  such  as  deeds  and  septic  permits,  would  facilitate  quick   document  retrieval,  improve  inter-­‐departmental  information  sharing  and   coordination,  and  likely  reduce  fees  and  timelines  associated  with  getting   building  location  permits  and  other  approvals.  It  was  specifically  suggested  that   digitizing  and  electronically  sharing  basic  property  information  –  e.g.,  owner   name,  street  address,  etc.  –  could  greatly  streamline  the  process  of  getting   septic  reviews  for  building  permits.  It  was  also  mentioned  that  the  Bonner

 

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County  Planning  Department  is  expecting  to  receive  new  software  in  January   2017  that  will  facilitate  deed  retrieval.

• Engage  stakeholders  in  helping  to  make  systems  as  efficient  and  effective  as   possible.  A  couple  interviewees  suggested  collaboratively  engaging  diverse   groups  of  stakeholders  in  reviewing  policies,  ordinances,  and  permitting   processes  to  identify  ways  of  improving  their  effectiveness  and  increasing   efficiency.

 

SOURCES  OF  TENSION  AND  DISAGREEMENT     Interviewees  were  asked  whether  they  think  Bonner  County  residents  generally  agree   about  the  vision  and  priorities  for  the  county,  or  whether  there  are  major  sources  of   disagreement.  The  majority  of  interviewees  believe  people  agree  on  the  big  picture   vision  for  the  county  and  share  the  priorities  and  values  discussed  above.  That  said,   interviewees  also  generally  agreed  that  there  are  strong  divides  within  the  community   regarding  how  to  achieve  these  goals  and  priorities.  The  following  are  key  sources  of   tension  identified  by  participants.

Perspectives  on  Private  Property  Rights,  Freedom,  and  Personal   Responsibility   As  noted  above,  interviewees  commonly  felt  that  there  are  strong  divides  within  the   county  about  private  property  rights  and  how  to  balance  private  property  rights  with   community  concerns.  Similarly,  some  interviewees  identified  the  meaning  of  “freedom”   and  “whose  freedom  to  do  what”  as  points  of  tension.  For  example,  interviewees  noted   that  some  people  in  the  county  seem  to  prioritize  the  freedom  to  do  what  they  want  on   their  properties  and/or  to  carry  guns,  whereas  others  prioritize  the  freedom  to  move   around  freely  and/or  to  not  feel  threatened  by  other  community  members  carrying  guns.     Related  to  the  question  of  how  to  balance  private  property  rights  and  government   planning  and  regulation,  interviewees  noted  that  people  seem  to  have  differing   perspectives  about  whether  people  will  “do  the  right  thing”  if  left  to  their  own  devices   (i.e.,  without  government  oversight  and  regulation).  Some  interviewees  thought  of  this   as  a  spectrum,  with  regulation  and  no  personal  responsibility  on  one  side  and  no   regulation  and  total  personal  responsibility  on  the  other  side.  Others  said  that   regulations  and  government  planning  are  intended  to  help  people  be  responsible  and   “do  the  right  thing.”  Regardless,  interviewees  noted  and  embodied  a  community  divide   in  thinking  about  the  extent  to  which  people  will  act  responsibly  without  government   oversight.

 

 

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Perspectives  on  the  Inevitability,  Desirability,  and  Risks  of  Countywide   Growth   Interviewees  indicated  that,  as  noted  above,  people  in  the  county  hold  different   perspectives  on  the  inevitability  and/or  desirability  of  regional  growth.  Many  said  there   are  individuals  in  Bonner  County  who  have  been  there  their  entire  lives  and  “don’t  want   to  see  it  change.”  Interviewees  also  noted  there  are  people  who  moved  to  Bonner   County  “to  get  away  from  people”  and  who  would  prefer  to  see  absolutely  no  growth  or   development.  In  contrast,  they  said,  many  people  see  growth  as  inevitable  and/or  as  a   potential  benefit.         Interviewees  also  noted  that  people  seem  to  have  divergent  levels  of  concern  about  the   extent  to  which  unregulated  growth  presents  a  threat.  They  suggested  this  might  have   more  to  do  with  a  desire  to  preserve  private  property  rights  than  a  lack  of  concern   about  unmanaged  growth.  Related  to  this,  one  interviewee  said  there  appears  to  be   disagreement  in  the  county  about  the  notion  of  “sustainable  growth,”  what  it  means,   and  whether  it  is  desirable.     Perspectives  on  Economic  Development  and  Fiscal  Responsibility   Some  interviewees  said  there  are  differing  perspectives  –  and  perhaps  some  confusion  –   among  county  residents  and  local  public  officials  about  economic  development  and   fiscal  responsibility.  More  specifically,  they  indicated  different  people  hold  different   perspectives  about  what  counts  as  a  wise  investment  in  economic  development  and   how  to  strike  the  right  balance  between  short-­‐term  and  long-­‐term  economic   development  and  fiscal  responsibility.  Nevertheless,  they  pointed  out  that  most  people   value  economic  development  and  fiscal  responsibility.     Strong  Political  Ideologies   A  number  of  interviewees  said  there  is  a  faction  of  very  conservative  and  very  pro-­‐ private  property  and  anti-­‐regulation  folks  residing  in  Bonner  County,  and  that  more   people  with  this  ideological  leaning  are  moving  into  the  area.  They  felt  this  group  tends   to  be  very  politically  active  and  divisive,  and  expressed  concern  that  the  growing   presence  of  this  contingent  is  causing  additional  tension  in  Bonner  County.

SPECIFIC  CONCERNS     Interviewees  were  asked  whether  they  are  particularly  concerned  about  any  particular   impacts  or  risks  associated  with  regional  growth,  land  use,  and  development  in  Bonner   County.  Interviewees  identified  the  following  specific  concerns:     Concerns  Associated  with  Recent  Bonner  County  Planning  Changes

 

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Many  interviewees  expressed  significant  concern  about  recent  developments  within  the   Bonner  County  Planning  Department.  The  strong  majority  of  interviewees,  including   those  who  work  directly  with  land  owners  and  developers  or  work  in  real  estate  and   building-­‐related  industries,  felt  that  Bonner  County’s  recent  subdivision  ordinance  and   permitting  changes  were  not  necessary.  They  felt  the  system  worked  fine  prior  to  these   changes  and,  as  a  few  people  said,  “if  it  ain’t  broke,  don’t  fix  it.”  In  contrast,  the  few   interviewees  who  were  supportive  of  these  changes  suggested  they  were  needed  to   reduce  the  cost,  time,  and  headache  associated  with  getting  building  location  permits   and  subdividing  properties  within  the  specifications  allowed  by  zoning.       Additionally,  many  interviewees  expressed  concern  about  the  loss  of  certain  Bonner   County  Planning  Department  staff  and  the  related  loss  of  institutional  knowledge.       Interviewees  representing  a  diversity  of  stakeholder  groups  and  political  leanings,   including  those  who  were  supportive  of  the  changes,  felt  that  the  changes  themselves   and  the  reasons  for  them  were  not  well  communicated  to  key  stakeholders  and  the   general  public.  Some  people  expressed  concern  that  the  lack  of  transparency  around   these  changes  may  have  decreased  public  trust  in  county  government.  It  is  worth   mentioning  that  a  number  of  interviewees  were  confused  about  the  changes  to  the   Bonner  County  subdivision  ordinance  and  building  location  permitting  process  and  what   these  changes  meant;  one  interviewee  was  entirely  unaware  that  these  changes  were   being  made.     As  noted  above,  interviewees  were  broadly  supportive  of  making  local  government   efficient  and  effective,  and  many  people  noted  there  might  be  opportunities  to   streamline  processes,  increase  effectiveness,  and  reduce  costs  of  programs  and  policies.   However,  many  questioned  whether  the  county  changes  were  actually  going  to  address   these  issues  and/or  whether  there  might  have  been  more  effective  ways  to  do  so.  For   example,  a  few  people  noted  there  are  many  subdivisions  in  the  county  that  have  been   divided  by  deed  and  are  non-­‐compliant,  and  that  this  issue  should  be  addressed.   However,  others  questioned  whether  the  county’s  proposed  changes  to  subdivision   ordinances  would  actually  address  this  problem.  Similarly,  a  handful  of  people  noted   that  the  Panhandle  Health  District  review  process  probably  could  have  been  made  more   efficient  and  less  expensive,  rather  than  being  entirely  removed  from  the  county’s   building  location  permit  and  minor  land  division  processes.  As  noted  above,  some   interviewees  suggested  local  governments  might  engage  diverse  stakeholders  in   collaboratively  figuring  out  how  to  address  such  issues  and  improve  regulations  and   programs.         Risk  of  Unsustainable  Development  in  Areas  of  City  Impact   Many  interviewees,  particularly  those  working  with  local  municipalities,  expressed   concern  about  potential  growth  and  development  in  the  Areas  of  City  Impact  (ACI)   around  Sandpoint,  Dover,  Ponderay,  and  Kootenai.  ACIs  are  county  land  around  the

 

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cities  that  have  been  identified  as  areas  for  city  growth.  People  noted  that  the  cities   have  an  agreement  with  the  county  that  requires  the  County  Commission  to  solicit  input   from  the  cities  on  proposed  changes  in  those  areas,  but  that  the  agreement  does  not   bind  the  county  to  adhere  to  the  city’s  plans  or  wishes  for  those  regions.  Some   interviewees  are  particularly  concerned  about  unmanaged  growth  and  unplanned   development  in  the  ACIs,  which  would  be  “inherited”  by  the  cities  down  the  line  when   these  areas  are  annexed.  For  example,  they  said,  if  sprawling  development  occurs  in   those  areas,  it  could  make  the  eventual  installation  of  sewer  and  water  lines  to  those   areas  either  a  significant  financial  burden  or  entirely  impossible.       Some  interviewees  said  they  would  like  to  see  ACI  agreements  strengthened  to  ensure   planning  and  zoning  in  those  areas  fits  with  the  cities’  plans  and  strategies.  It  was  also   suggested  that  “area  plans”  might  be  considered  as  a  way  to  address  planning  in  ACIs   and  that  Bonner  County  might  look  at  other  counties  for  examples  of  how  to  do  this.     Risk  of  Sprawl  and  Unsustainable  Growth   Directly  related  to  the  concern  about  ACIs:  Numerous  interviewees  expressed  strong   concern  about  the  potential  for  unmanaged  growth  to  lead  to  sprawl  and  unsustainable   development  throughout  Bonner  County.  These  interviewees  are  worried  that  sprawl   would  erode  the  county’s  rural  character  and  open  spaces,  significantly  increase  the   cost  of  delivering  services  and  infrastructure,  and  increase  the  cost  of  housing  due  to   increasing  service  delivery  costs  and  transportation  costs.  Some  interviewees  also   expressed  concern  that  sprawling  development  would  make  people  in  the  region  even   more  car  dependent;  this,  they  said,  pushes  cities  to  use  land  for  parking  rather  than  for   tax-­‐generating  purposes  such  as  business  space.       As  noted  earlier,  a  few  interviewees  felt  sprawl  is  unlikely  to  be  an  issue  due  to  the  fact   that  a  large  portion  of  Bonner  County  is  federal,  state,  or  other  non-­‐developable  land.     Risk  of  Creating  a  “Buyer  Beware”  Situation  for  Properties  and  Buildings   Multiple  interviewees,  including  those  working  with  landowners  and  those  who  are   involved  in  the  building  industry,  expressed  a  concern  that  Bonner  County  might  be   creating  a  “buyer  beware”  situation  for  property  and  home  buyers  by  reducing   regulations  and  oversight  for  land  use,  septic  siting,  and  buildings.  They  felt  local   government  policies  and  regulations  should  be  in  place  to  protect  land  owners,  land   developers,  and  their  neighbors.     Some  interviewees  said  many  people  do  not  know  they  need  to  get  a  septic  permit,  as   mandated  by  Idaho  State  law.  They  added  that  excavators  often  assume  land  owners   have  a  septic  permit  and  will  dig  a  septic  hole  without  checking.  Interviewees  indicated   this  can  lead  to  the  installation  of  problematic  septic  systems  (such  as  those  that  are   poorly  sited),  which  can  lead  to  impaired  water  quality  and  create  issues  for  property   buyers  and  sellers  when  that  property  transfers  hands.  Interviewees  also  noted  that

 

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people  sometimes  build  structures  where  their  septic  system  should  be,  making  proper   septic  siting  impossible  or  very  expensive  for  that  property.  Many  interviewees  felt  that   the  Panhandle  Health  District  building  permit  review  was  a  good  process  and  a  helpful   part  of  a  check  and  balance  system  intended  to  prevent  people  from  causing  themselves   problems  or  accidentally  breaking  the  law.       It  was  also  noted  that  similar  issues  exist  with  the  structural  integrity  of  buildings,  due  to   the  lack  of  a  county  building  inspection  process  and  building  department.  Some   interviewees,  including  those  familiar  with  the  building  industry,  worried  this  will  cause   long-­‐term  liabilities  for  property  owners,  builders,  and  local  government.       A  few  interviewees  felt  that  individuals  should  be  and  will  be  responsible  for  getting   septic  permits  and  ensuring  buildings  are  properly  built.  They  felt  that  recent  changes  to   county  permitting  and  review  processes  are  not  going  to  lead  to  long-­‐term  problems  or   liabilities.       Concerns  Associated  with  Affordability  of  Housing  and  Cost  of  Living   As  noted  above,  there  was  general  agreement  among  interviewees  that  they  would  like   to  see  Bonner  County  be  a  place  where  people  at  all  stages  of  life  can  afford  to  live,   work,  and  play.  It  is  therefore  not  surprising  that  many  people  expressed  a  concern   about  the  affordability  of  housing  in  Bonner  County  and  the  possibility  that  it  could   become  an  increasingly  expensive  place  to  live.

A  few  interviewees  said  that  making  it  easier  to  subdivide  properties  and  lowering   development  fees  would  assist  in  making  housing  more  affordable.  In  contrast,  many   interviewees  expressed  concern  about  county  efforts  to  streamline  the  subdivision   process,  indicating  that  making  subdividing  easier  does  not  make  housing  and  property   prices  more  affordable.  Instead,  they  suggested,  it  may  have  the  opposite  effect,  citing   examples  such  as  Bozeman,  Montana,  where  rural  land  was  bought  and  subdivided  by   “real  estate  moguls,”  thereby  driving  higher  property  values.

A  number  of  other  interviewees  recommended  focusing  on  providing  affordable   housing  options  in  the  municipalities,  with  some  suggesting  that  increasing  urban   density  and  providing  public  transit  options  are  key  ways  to  increase  housing   affordability.  It  was  suggested  that  efforts  to  increase  housing  affordability  should  take   into  account  the  cost  of  transportation,  which  can  greatly  increase  costs  of  living.

One  interviewee  noted  that  the  lack  of  affordable  housing  in  Sandpoint  pushes  people   with  lower  incomes  out  to  surrounding  communities,  such  as  Priest  River,  which  can   lead  to  imbalances  in  community  diversity.  This  interviewee  recommended  focusing  on   making  all  of  the  county’s  municipalities  affordable  for  working  folks,  to  avoid  certain   towns  becoming  “bedroom  communities”  or  experiencing  other  problematic   community  dynamics.

 

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Some  people  expressed  concern  about  low  salaries  and  unemployment  in  the  county,   suggesting  that  addressing  these  issues  through  economic  development  could  increase   people’s  ability  to  stay  and  thrive  in  the  county.     Threats  to  Water  Quality   In  light  of  the  fact  that  protecting  water  quality  and  the  county’s  water  bodies  was  a   priority  for  many  interviewees,  it  is  not  surprising  that  many  of  them  expressed  serious   concern  about  water  quality  in  the  region.  Many  people  noted  that  the  county’s  lakes,   rivers,  and  clean  water  are  a  major  amenity  for  locals,  as  well  as  a  major  draw  for   tourists.  Interviewees  generally  expressed  an  interest  in  ensuring  proper  septic  and   sewer  treatment  throughout  the  region  to  help  protect  water  quality.       As  noted  above,  many  interviewees  expressed  concern  that  changes  to  the  Panhandle   Health  District  review  of  building  permits  could  lead  to  improper  siting  and  use  of  septic   systems  and  related  water  quality  issues.  Some  people  saw  it  as  a  step  backward  in   terms  of  protecting  water  quality.  Those  involved  in  working  with  landowners  indicated   the  recent  changes  have  confused  people,  saying  some  people  now  believe  they  are   entirely  exempt  from  all  Panhandle  Health  District  review.  They  also  noted  that  many   people  build  “sheds”  and  “storage  units”  that  are  actually  bunkhouses,  and  that  these   structures  are  often  being  built  without  the  necessary  septic  capacity.  Multiple   interviewees  felt  that,  while  landowners  often  want  to  do  the  right  thing,  many  people   do  not  understand  septic  systems  and  why  they  matter.  It  was  noted  that,   problematically,  septic  issues  may  not  manifest  for  some  time,  and  it  is  very  expensive   and  hard  to  fix  the  issue  once  they  do.  For  these  kinds  of  reasons,  many  interviewees   felt  that  the  Panhandle  Health  District’s  review  of  building  permits  is  critical  to  avoid   creating  problems  for  property  owners,  their  neighbors,  potential  future  property   buyers,  and  water  quality.     In  contrast,  a  few  interviewees  felt  that  the  changes  in  the  permitting  process  have   streamlined  the  process  and  should  not  lead  to  any  issues.  They  noted  that  people   building  plumbed  structures  are  still  required  to  get  a  septic  permit  by  state  law.  A   couple  people  who  do  not  work  for  Panhandle  Health  District  felt  that  the  old  process   was  largely  an  unnecessary  inconvenience,  saying  they  believed  only  a  small  portion  of   people  had  problems  that  merited  Panhandle  Health  District’s  review.  Other   interviewees  disagreed,  saying  Panhandle  Health  District’s  building  permit  review   process  prevented  many  septic  problems.       A  number  of  interviewees  emphasized  that  the  State  of  Idaho  requires  a  septic  permit,   saying  the  inclusion  of  Panhandle  Health  District  sign  off  on  building  location  permits   was  designed  to  help  ensure  property  owners  actually  got  this  state  required  permit  –   and  to  help  them  proactively  avoid  these  issues  in  doing  so.

 

Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program   383  South  University  Street,  Salt  Lake  City,  UT  84112

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Concerns  Associated  with  Divisive  Politics   As  noted  above,  multiple  interviewees  expressed  concern  about  increasingly  divisive   politics  at  the  local  and  national  level,  and  the  effect  this  seems  to  be  having  on   community  character  and  local  decision-­‐making.  They  expressed  an  interest  in  keeping   Bonner  County  a  place  where  people  can,  as  one  person  put  it,  “sit  down,  talk  things   through,  work  things  out,  and  not  have  to  go  to  court.”     Geographic  Areas  of  Particular  Concern   In  addition  to  the  above  discussed  concerns,  interviewees  identified  the  following   geographic  areas  as  being  of  particularly  at-­‐risk  or  of  particular  concern:

• Lakefront  properties.  Some  interviewees  felt  that  regulating  septic  and  land  use   on  lakefront  properties  is  particularly  important,  in  light  of  the  potential  for  uses   on  these  properties  to  affect  water  bodies  and  the  county’s  water  quality.

• Corridor  along  Highway  95.  A  number  of  interviewees  identified  the  corridor   along  Highway  95  south  and  north  of  Sandpoint  as  an  area  that  will  be  prone  to   sprawling  development,  if  growth  is  not  managed  and  planned  for.

• Selle  Valley.  Many  people  expressed  appreciation  for  the  rural  character,  natural   resources,  and  beauty  of  the  Selle  Valley.  Some  felt  that  it  is  particularly   vulnerable  to  sprawling  growth  and  haphazard  development.

 

PERSPECTIVES  ON  ENGAGING  KEY  STAKEHOLDERS  AND  THE   PUBLIC     When  asked  what  would  be  helpful  for  achieving  key  priorities  and  addressing   challenges  associated  with  growth,  development,  and  planning  in  Bonner  County,   interviewees  commonly  said  they  think  more  effective  public  education  and   engagement  is  needed.  Additionally,  all  interviewees  were  asked  how  important  they   think  it  is  that  stakeholders  and  members  of  the  public  are  involved  when  changes  are   being  made  to  policies  and  regulations  that  affect  land  use  and  planning.  In  response  to   this  question,  almost  every  interviewee  said  they  think  public  engagement  is  very   important.       While  interviewees  commonly  noted  the  importance  of  education  and  engagement,   they  also  often  emphasized  how  difficult  it  is  to  get  people  to  meaningfully  engage.  They   cited  examples  of  poorly  attended  workshops  and  town  hall  meetings.  Many  people   expressed  an  interest  in  encouraging  the  public  to  take  responsibility  for  being  informed,   engaged,  and  part  of  local  problem-­‐solving  efforts.     As  discussed  further  below,  interviewees  generally  felt  that  decision-­‐makers  need  to   take  responsibility  for  ensuring  there  are  forums,  such  as  workshops,  where   stakeholders  and  the  public  can  learn  about  issues  and  options  and  share  their  concerns

 

Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program   383  South  University  Street,  Salt  Lake  City,  UT  84112

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prior  to  official  decision-­‐making  hearings.  Additionally,  many  interviewees  noted  that   these  forums  should  be  held  at  times  that  are  convenient  for  general  public,  and  that   they  should  be  well  advertised  to  help  make  sure  people  know  about  them.  That  said,   interviewees  also  often  noted  that  stakeholders  and  members  of  the  public  need  to  take   responsibility  for  ensuring  they  are  informed  about  issues  and  options,  such  as  by   attending  workshops  and  doing  their  research,  so  that  their  involvement  can   meaningfully  help  inform  decision-­‐makers.     Interviewees  shared  the  below  ideas  for  how  to  better  educate  and  engage  stakeholders   and  the  public  around  growth,  land  use,  and  other  planning  related  concerns.     Reinstate  the  Prior  Bonner  County  Engagement  and  Review  Process  for   Planning  Related  Decision-­‐Making   Many  interviewees  said  that  the  process  Bonner  County  used  until  recently  to  make   planning  and  zoning  changes  worked  well.  They  felt  this  process  has  not  been  followed   recently  and  recommended  reinstating  this  process,  which  included  a  review  of   suggested  changes  by  the  Planning  and  Zoning  Commission  and  well  publicized  public   education  workshops  prior  to  decision-­‐making  hearings.       Hold  Learning  Forums  Prior  to  Decision-­‐Making  Forums   Many  interviewees  expressed  a  desire  for  forums  where  people  can  learn  about  growth   land  use,  and  planning-­‐related  issues  and  options,  talk  through  differences,  share  their   informed  concerns  with  public  officials,  and  truly  be  heard  prior  to  decisions  being  made.   It  was  suggested  these  should  be  held  at  times  of  the  day  that  are  convenient  for  people   who  cannot  step  away  from  their  jobs,  that  they  should  include  opportunities  for   information  sharing  and  learning  as  well  as  for  an  “open  mic,”  and  that  it  might  be   helpful  for  these  forums  to  be  professionally  facilitated  to  make  sure  people  are  kept  on   task  and  that  conversation  is  civil.  It  was  also  suggested  that  there  should  be  many   opportunities  for  input,  such  as  through  online  systems,  submitting  letters,  and  in-­‐ person  comments.  An  interviewee  recommended  working  with  the  media  to  make  sure   they  are  reporting  accurately  on  the  fact  that  this  is  happening  so  that  people  in  the   community  know  what  is  going  on  and  that  they  have  a  chance  to  learn  and  share  their   thoughts.     Meaningfully  Engage  Stakeholders  and  the  Public  in  Revisiting   Comprehensive  Plans   Multiple  interviewees  indicated  that  comprehensive  plans  are  important  tools  and  that   they  should  be  “living  documents.”  They  indicated  that  comprehensive  plans  are   intended  to  provide  a  guide  for  land  use  planning,  and  that  they  should  be  updated   periodically  to  reflect  realities  and  emerging  needs.  These  interviewees  generally  felt   this  periodic  updating  should  be  done  through  a  thoughtful  public  process.

 

Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program   383  South  University  Street,  Salt  Lake  City,  UT  84112

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The  general  sentiment  among  interviewees  was  that  the  Bonner  County  Comprehensive   Plan  was  developed  through  an  effective  public  engagement  process,  and  that  updates   to  the  plan  should  similarly  occur  through  an  equally  thoughtful  public  and  engagement   effort.  Some  people  said  the  Comprehensive  Plan  should  be  revisited  every  2–3  years,   whereas  some  said  it  should  be  revisited  annually  to  assess  whether  any  revisions  are   needed.  It  was  suggested  this  could  be  done  through  a  series  of  public  workshops,   including  some  specifically  aimed  at  engaging  land  surveyors,  planners,  realtors,  and   other  stakeholder  groups  who  are  familiar  with  land  use  and  development  concerns,  as   well  as  some  aimed  at  engaging  members  of  the  general  public.  These  conversations,   interviewees  said,  could  focus  on  questions  such  as  “Is  this  who  we  want  to  be  now?”   and  “Is  this  where  we’re  going?”  and  should  be  very  transparent  and  well  publicized,   with  specific  invitations  to  key  stakeholders  and/or  stakeholder  groups.     Meaningfully  Engage  the  Community  in  Clarifying  Countywide  Values     Many  interviewees  suggested  local  government  planning  efforts  should  be  community-­‐ led.  They  suggested  it  would  be  helpful  to  periodically  engage  county  stakeholders  and   community  members  in  clarifying  countywide  priorities  and  values.  It  was  suggested  this   could  be  done  through  some  form  of  visioning  exercise.  That  said,  it  was  also  noted  that   “visioning”  may  have  a  negative  connotation  in  certain  circles  and  therefore  might  not   be  the  appropriate  term.  It  was  also  suggested  that  countywide  surveys  could  be   conducted  every  couple  of  years,  like  they  used  to  be,  to  help  take  the  temperature  of   county  residents  in  regards  to  county  concerns  and  planning  and  land  use  priorities.  One   interviewee  recommended  tying  these  efforts  to  things  such  as  Comprehensive  Plan   updates,  since  people  need  a  reason  for  engaging  and  engagement  needs  to  have  a   beginning  and  an  end.     Meaningfully  Engage  Stakeholders  in  Reviewing  and  Streamlining  Policies   and  Processes     As  noted  above,  some  interviewees  suggested  engaging  key  stakeholders  in  helping   local  government  increase  the  efficiency  and  effectiveness  of  its  programs  and   regulations.  Interviewees  suggested  engaging  knowledgeable  stakeholders  in  identifying   bottlenecks,  determining  what  is  working  well  and  what  is  not  working  well,  and   exploring  ways  of  better  meeting  the  intended  goals  of  policies  and  programs.   Interviewees  specifically  mentioned  that  this  approach  might  be  helpful  for  figuring  out   how  to:  bring  non-­‐compliant  subdivisions  into  compliance;  ensure  future  subdivisions   are  compliant;  and  improve  the  Panhandle  Health  District’s  building  location  permit  and   subdivision  review  processes  to  ensure  they  are  effective  and  efficient  while  still   achieving  their  intended  goals.

 

Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program   383  South  University  Street,  Salt  Lake  City,  UT  84112

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Foster  Productive  Public  Conversation  about  Growth,  Land  Use,  Planning,   and  Related  Concerns   Some  interviewees  suggested  focusing  on  creating  a  productive  public  conversation   about  regional  growth,  planning,  and  related  concerns.  Interviewees  indicated  this   conversation  might  focus  on  questions  such  as  “What  do  we  want  to  be  when  we  grow   up?”;  “Do  we  want  to  grow  or  not?”;  “What  is  good  growth?  What  is  not  good   growth?”;  “How  do  we  balance  private  property  rights  with  public  interests?”;  and   “What  kinds  of  economic  development  do  we  want  to  focus  on?”       Some  interviewees  suggested  using  the  newspaper  and  other  print  and  online  forums  to   catalyze  a  community  conversation  about  certain  issues.  Others  focused  on  creating  in-­‐ person  forums  for  people  from  diverse  walks  of  life  to  civilly  and  productively  engage  in   dialogue  about  these  issues,  so  as  to  find  common  ground  and  start  to  work  through   differences.  One  interviewee  suggested  that  fostering  productive  public  conversation   might  help  people  appreciate  their  responsibility  for  being  informed  and  engaged  in   local  decision-­‐making  and  problem-­‐solving.     Illuminate  What  Is  at  Stake  by  Visualizing  Scenarios  and  Options   A  number  of  interviewees  noted  that  many  people  do  not  understand  why  land  use   planning  matters  and  what  is  at  stake.  They  suggested  helping  people  engage  with  the   tradeoffs  and  considerations  through  visualizing  options,  changes,  and  potential  growth   and  development  scenarios.  This  could  take  the  form  of  anything  from  a  simulation   people  can  interactively  engage  with  to  structured  scenario  planning  that  engages   community  members  in  helping  to  develop  and  explore  the  implications  of  potential   futures.     Improve  Education  and  Information  Sharing   Interviewees  noted  a  number  of  areas  where  improved  education  and  information   sharing  with  stakeholders  and  the  general  public  could  be  helpful,  mainly:

• Better  explaining  recent  changes  in  county  planning  and  zoning  procedures  and   regulations,  and  the  implications  of  these  changes.  Many  interviewees,  including   those  who  are  supportive  and  those  who  are  not  supportive  of  these  changes,   felt  that  people  are  confused  about  recent  developments.

• Educating  people  about  septic  systems:  how  they  work,  why  properly  siting  and   maintaining  them  matters,  and  other  related  concerns.  Interviewees  said   contractors,  lenders,  excavators,  builders,  and  realtors  all  need  to  be  educated   so  that  they  can  help  land  owners  do  the  right  thing.  Similarly,  interviewees   suggested  it  might  be  helpful  to  educate  people  about  the  difference  between  a   sewer  and  a  septic  system  and  why  it  matters.

• Provide  information  about  what  to  expect  when  applying  for  a  permit  (such  as   for  building  location  or  septic)  and  why  permits  are  required.  This  might  answer

 

Environmental  Dispute  Resolution  Program   383  South  University  Street,  Salt  Lake  City,  UT  84112

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common  questions  such  as  “How  much  is  it  likely  to  cost?”,  “What  do  fees   cover?”,  and  “How  long  is  this  likely  to  take?”

Based  on  interviews  and  observation  of  community  events,  it  seems  likely  that  the   following  information  might  also  be  helpful:

• Examples  of  similar  regions  and/or  communities  that  have  not  managed  growth   and  development  pressure  well,  with  information  about  what  they  wished  they   had  done  differently.

• Examples  of  similar  regions  and/or  communities  that  have  managed  growth  and   development  pressures  well,  with  information  about  what  they  have  done  and   how  this  has  helped.

• Information  about  cost  of  housing  and/or  cost  of  living  in  Bonner  County  as   compared  to  other  similar  areas.  Information  about  changes  in  cost  of  living  in   Bonner  County  over  the  last  20  years  compared  to  changes  in  other  similar   regions  may  also  be  helpful.

• Information  about  what  is  driving  the  cost  of  living,  how  much  transportation   contributes  to  housing  costs,  and  strategies  for  increasing  housing  affordability   and/or  affordability  of  day-­‐to-­‐day  activities.

Interviewees  mentioned  the  following  existing  educational  and  assistance  programs:

• Natural  Resource  Conservation  Services  (NRCS)  programs:  The  NRCS  is  available   to  provide  technical  assistance  to  county  government,  municipalities,  and   individuals  through  a  variety  or  programs,  such  as  their  Conservation  Stewards   Program  and  Wildlife  Habitat  Incentive  Program.

• 2014  and  2015  Realtors  Classes:  These  classes  were  a  collaborative  effort  by   local  agencies  –  including  municipal  and  county  governments,  Panhandle  Health   District,  and  the  NRCS  –  covering  water  quality,  erosion,  pollution  prevention,   land  use  laws  and  regulations,  wetlands,  floodplain  and  floodway  issues,  and   septic  regulations.  Some  interviewees  encourage  those  responsible  for  hosting   this  course  to  continue  to  offer  it.

Encourage  People  to  Utilize  Existing  Opportunities  to  Engage  –  and  to   Engage  Productively   Many  interviewees  noted  that  there  are  many  opportunities  for  citizens  to  learn  about   and  engage  in  local  government  decision-­‐making  that  are  not  being  well  utilized.  For   example,  one  interviewee  noted  that  the  County  Commissioners  meet  weekly  and  that   their  business  meeting  is  open  to  the  public,  but  only  a  few  people  and  usually  the  same   people  come  to  those  meetings.  Interviewees  felt  it  would  be  helpful  to  have  greater   and  more  diverse  representation  from  citizens  at  those  meetings.  This,  they  suggested,   can  help  prevent  the  problem  of  the  “squeaky  wheel  getting  the  grease.”  Other   interviewees  noted  that  citizens  have  the  opportunity  to  submit  written  comments  to   their  decision-­‐makers  and  to  contact  their  decision-­‐makers  directly,  but  that  these

 

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methods  are  often  only  used  when  people  are  really  frustrated  about  a  change  (and   therefore  are  often  used  to  vent  rather  than  to  provide  meaningful  comment).       On  a  similar  note,  interviewees  commonly  said  people  should  make  sure  to  come  to   these  forums  informed  about  issues  and  prepared  to  engage  productively.  This  includes   asking  intelligent,  thoughtful  questions  and  actively  listening  to  really  understand  what   is  going  on,  not  just  stating  positions  or  expressing  frustration  with  decision-­‐makers.       Interviewees  noted  that  people  may  not  know  about  these  forums,  so  there  may  be  an   opportunity  for  local  groups  to  help  get  the  word  out.     Use  Multiple  Approaches  to  Get  the  Word  Out   Interviewees  recommended  using  many  approaches  to  spread  the  word  about  planning-­‐ related  concerns,  proposed  government  and  regulation  changes,  and  educational  and   engagement  opportunities.  Some  strategies  they  suggested  included:

• Working  with  local  newspapers  to  ensure  accurate  information  is  being  shared;   • Using  innovative  community  ads  and  social  marketing  to  get  the  word  out  and

increase  awareness;   • Effectively  using  e-­‐communication,  such  as  online  platforms,  for  getting

information  out  and  soliciting  feedback;   • Doing  simple  surveys  every  so  often  to  get  information  on  community

perspectives  and  concerns;   • Using  social  media  to  get  information  out  and  increase  awareness;  and   • Sending  mailings,  even  though  they  are  expensive,  since  some  people  in  the

county  are  not  likely  to  get  information  through  the  Internet.

Engage  the  “Sunbirds”     A  few  people  noted  that  many  landowners  in  Bonner  County  are  “sunbirds”  who  are   only  around  during  the  summer  months.  They  said  that  these  people  are  often  not  very   aware  of  and  involved  with  local  decision-­‐making,  but  are  directly  affected  by  it  and   sometimes  are  very  unhappy  with  it.  These  interviewees  recommended  putting  energy   into  finding  ways  to  meaningfully  educate  and  engage  Bonner  County’s  part-­‐time   residents.  That  said,  they  also  recognize  this  is  a  challenge.

PERSPECTIVES  ON  COUNTYWIDE  COORDINATION  AND   COLLABORATION     One  of  the  questions  interviewees  were  asked  was  whether  they  see  value  in  better   coordination  and  collaboration  among  local  governments  in  Bonner  County.  The  strong   majority  of  interviewees  said  yes  in  response,  often  emphatically.  Additionally,  prior  to   being  asked  this  question,  many  interviewees  suggested  that  better  countywide

 

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coordination  and  collaboration  would  be  helpful.  Only  one  interviewee  expressed   concern  about  countywide  collaboration,  voicing  a  concern  about  “decision  making  by   committee.”     Some  interviewees  noted  that  Bonner  County’s  local  governments  have  historically  had   some  tense  relationships  and  that  they  have  tried  to  protect  their  “fiefdoms.”  That  said,   a  few  interviewees  indicated  that  the  municipalities  in  Bonner  County,  particularly   Sandpoint,  Dover,  Ponderay,  and  Kootenai,  have  greatly  improved  their  coordination   and  working  relationships  in  recent  years.  Regardless,  almost  everyone  interviewed  said   they  see  opportunities  and  a  need  for  greater  coordination  and  collaboration  among   these  municipalities,  as  well  as  with  other  municipalities  and  county  government.     Benefits  of  Improved  Countywide  Collaboration   Interviewees  identified  the  following  reasons  for  and  benefits  of  greater  coordination   and  collaboration,  in  no  particular  order:

• Communication  and  exchange  of  information  among  jurisdictions,  which  can   help  ensure  everyone  is  “on  the  same  page,”  build  trust,  and  improve  working   relationships

• Integration  of  services,  where  appropriate,  which  should  increase  efficiency  and   result  in  cost  savings

• Increased  focus  on  common  concerns  and  interests  and  improved  ability  to  work   across  differences

• Ability  to  create  value  and  implement  innovative  solutions  by  bringing  together   different  ideas  and  perspectives

• Cohesion  of  planning  and  land  use  efforts  among  jurisdictions,  which  will  help   avoid  conflicting,  duplicated,  and  “piecemeal”  efforts

• Ability  to  jointly  pursue  and  achieve  countywide  priorities,  such  as  economic   development  and  affordable  housing,  and  meet  objectives,  such  as  water  quality   standards

• Improved  ability  to  identify,  pursue,  and  secure  funding  for  local  and  countywide   projects

• Development  of  a  countywide  vision  and  coherent  strategy  for  achieving  that   vision

• Development  and  exploration  of  county  growth,  development,  and  land  use   scenarios  to  inform  current  and  future  decisions

• Better  engagement  of  and  resource  sharing  with  the  small  communities  and   unincorporated  areas  in  the  county

A  number  of  interviewees  mentioned  the  Spot  Bus,  the  Highway  2-­‐200  effort,  and  trail   planning  as  examples  of  successful  countywide  collaboration,  saying  they  would  like  to   see  more  such  successes.

 

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Potential  Models  and  Approaches  for  Countywide  Collaboration   Interviewees  had  somewhat  differing  perspectives  on  exactly  what  form  countywide   coordination  and  collaboration  might  take,  particularly  in  regards  to  whether  it  might   lead  to  or  involve  regionalization  of  services,  such  as  sewer  and/or  emergency  medical   services.  That  said,  interviewees  seemed  generally  supportive  of  creating  some  sort  of   working  group,  comprised  of  local  government  representatives  and  other  key   stakeholders,  to  facilitate  information  sharing  and  potentially  engage  in  joint   strategizing.     Some  interviewees  mentioned  the  Bonner  County  Area  Transportation  Team  (BCATT)  as   a  successful  countywide  coordination  model;  they  felt  this  would  be  a  good  model  to   learn  from  to  inform  a  countywide  collaboration  effort  focused  on  broader  land  use  and   planning  concerns.  The  Kootenai  Valley  Resource  Initiative  was  also  mentioned  as  an   approach  that  could  be  learned  from.  Additionally,  an  interviewee  suggested  thinking   about  creating  a  regional  council  that  would  consist  of  local  government  representatives   as  well  as  other  key  stakeholders.     A  number  of  interviewees  noted  that  Bonner  County  used  to  host  quarterly  Growth   Summits,  which  involved  the  local  mayors,  county  commissioners,  and  other  local  public   officials.  Interviewees  who  had  participated  in  these  summits  thought  they  were   productive  and  recommended  reinvigorating  them.  One  interviewee  noted  that,  if  these   summits  are  revived,  greater  effort  should  be  put  into  ensuring  unincorporated  areas  of   the  county  are  effectively  represented,  which  can  be  a  problem  due  to  the  fact  they  do   not  have  councils  to  represent  them.     One  interviewee  noted  that  countywide  collaboration  and  coordination  would  be  very   helpful,  but  suggested  that,  to  be  fully  effective,  this  effort  would  probably  need  a   facilitator  and  perhaps  administrative  support.     While  there  was  almost  unanimous  agreement  among  interviewees  that  better   coordination  and  collaboration  among  local  governments  would  be  helpful  and  perhaps   necessary,  there  was  less  agreement  about  the  desirability  of  regionalizing  services.   Many  interviewees  felt  that  regionalizing  sewer  and  possibly  other  services  would   increase  efficiency  and  effectiveness.  Others  felt  that  services  are  just  fine  as  they  are.   Some  said  that,  even  if  it  would  be  more  efficient  and  effective  to  regionalize  services,   the  politics  of  doing  so  would  be  very  challenging.  While  people  held  different   perspectives  on  the  desirability  of  regionalizing  services,  there  seemed  to  be  general   agreement  that  this  is  something  local  governments  should  at  least  discuss,  explore,  and   consider  working  together  on.     Some  interviewees  said  it  might  even  make  sense  for  certain  municipalities  to  consider   merging.  While  they  noted  there  might  be  strong  pushback  from  certain  constituents,   they  also  thought  this  move  might  garner  strong  support.  As  with  regionalizing  services,

 

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those  who  mentioned  the  possibility  of  municipalities  merging  felt  this  was  something   the  local  municipalities  should  discuss  and  explore.     Concerns  and  Challenges  for  Countywide  Collaboration  and/or   Regionalization  of  Services   Interviewees  expressed  the  following  concerns  related  to  countywide  collaboration,   coordination,  and  the  possibility  of  regionalizing  services  and  governance:

• The  term  “regionalization”  might  trigger  negative  responses  and  suspicion   among  certain  constituencies

• Collaborative  processes  take  time  and  can  be  cumbersome,  even  if  they  are   ultimately  effective

• Jurisdictions  have  their  own  processes  and  procedures  for  doing  things,  which   may  make  it  hard  to  collaborate  on  certain  things

• There  have  been  “turf  wars”  historically,  which  may  make  some  people   suspicious  of  or  opposed  to  regionalization  efforts

• You  need  to  ensure  entities  are  effectively  represented  in  whatever   collaboration  or  coordination  effort  is  created

• Small  towns  value  their  independent  feel,  which  might  create  challenges  for   regionalizing  services  and  merging  municipalities

• The  larger  anything  gets,  the  more  likely  it  will  become  detached  from  the   purpose  it  was  intended  to  achieve.  While  it  may  be  less  efficient  to  have  many   local  governments  providing  similar  services  at  a  smaller  scale,  doing  so  may   make  these  services  feel  a  lot  closer  to  the  people  they  are  intended  to  serve

• Each  government  entity  has  authority  over  its  jurisdiction.  Collaborative  efforts   should  not  compromise  this  jurisdictional  authority  or  lead  to  “decision  making   by  committee”

 

 

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APPENDIX  A:  LIST  OF  STAKEHOLDER  GROUPS  AND   JURISDICTIONS  REPRESENTED  BY  INTERVIEWEES

Stakeholder  Groups  Represented   Interviewees  included  individuals  from  the  following  stakeholder  groups  and   organizations:

• Builders  and  contractors   • Developers   • Real  estate  agents   • Surveyors   • Professional  planners   • Local  businesses   • Municipal  elected  officials  and  staff   • County  elected  officials  and  staff   • State  of  Idaho  elected  officials   • Conservation  organizations   • Timber  industry   • Bonner  County  Economic  Development  Corporation   • Panhandle  Health  District

Jurisdictions  Represented   Interviewees  include  individuals  who  officially  represent,  work  for,  and/or  live  in  the   following  Bonner  County  jurisdictions:

• City  of  Clark  Fork   • City  of  Dover   • City  of  Hope     • City  of  Kootenai   • City  of  Ponderay     • City  of  Priest  River   • City  of  Sandpoint   • Bonner  County   • The  unincorporated  areas  of:

o Sagle   o Selle  Valley   o Sunnyside