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Comp plan nears finish

by Alecia Warren
| December 10, 2010 8:00 PM

Kootenai County's vision for the future of development is nearly complete.

The county commissioners made final changes to all but one of the chapters in the new Comprehensive Plan on Thursday.

Some who attended the deliberations on the guiding document four years in the making thought the changes were not enough, however, particularly after members of the public and the four major cities had called for heavy revisions at an October public hearing.

"Overall, I don't think much has changed," said Terry Harris, executive director of Kootenai Environmental Alliance, after the deliberations.

But the commissioners said they changed just enough to simplify the document and ensure the plan guides future development to occur primarily in urban areas, not rural.

"We're clarifying things that were not as clear," said Commissioner Todd Tondee at the deliberations in the county Administration Building. "I don't think the intent of the Comprehensive Plan has changed at all."

Tondee said he has held private workshops with representatives from the four cities since they demanded the county rewrite the draft two months ago.

As a result, Tondee had four pages of changes for the commissioners to peruse.

The biggest change was a new specification that a minimum of 70 percent of new growth will be in cities. Previously, the plan had said development would be split 70 percent in urban areas, and 30 percent in rural.

"That (rewording) is continuing the theme we'd like to see, with rural becoming less developed than cities," Tondee said.

Another new item states that the county can only locate condensed village developments on the Rathdrum Prairie if all the cities agree.

The commissioners decided not to put acreage densities back in the document, which they had removed in May in spite of protest from KEA and members of the public.

"A lot of professionals will tell you they do not belong in the Comprehensive Plan," said Commissioner Rick Currie, adding that the designations will be written in zoning ordinances later.

The remaining draft changes were small, most clarifying wording, deleting gratuitous references and formulas and moving goals to more relevant chapters.

Tondee said the commissioners' rewording has made this version two-thirds the size of the current Comprehensive Plan.

"It's smaller than what we have today," he said.

Harris said he was pleased with the rewording of the 70 to 30 percent split.

But the other changes were minor and disappointing, he said, especially the decision to leave out acreage designations he believes would make it easier to write zoning codes.

"That's the one (change) we were praying the hardest for," he said.

Coeur d'Alene resident Marty Laing who attended the deliberations said the changes were trivial.

"The four mayors said 'Throw the plan out,' so what they (the commissioners) came back with today was window dressing," Laing said. "And there are no specifics on densities. Without that, you don't have a plan."

Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin and Rathdrum City Administrator Brett Boyer said they didn't know enough about Thursday's changes to comment.

Representatives of Hayden and Coeur d'Alene did not return messages on Thursday.

The county has been working to update the 1994 Comprehensive Plan since 2006. The document is intended as a road map for development in the county over at least the next 10 years.

The Land Use chapter has yet to undergo deliberations, which are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14 in the commissioners' boardroom.

Currie said he was pleased with the commissioners' changes.

"A lot of it was wordsmithing," Currie said. "That was one of the concerns that has been brought up many times, that the document was entirely too wordy. One of the things we tried to accomplish was to make it easier to read."

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