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Comp plan gains approval

by Brian Walker
| December 31, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - After four years of contention, Kootenai County's comprehensive plan is updated.

Commissioners unanimously approved the update of the 20-year plan without fanfare or protest on Thursday.

"And it was done this year," Commissioner Rick Currie said after the vote.

After public hearings on the plan's update attracted a variety of comment, including from city officials, property owners, developers, businesses and the environmental community, only reporters and one person from the general public attended the meeting on the vote.

"The plan is not perfect," Currie said. "Just by design, it can't be perfect because it has to represent all of Kootenai County.

"It's not 100 percent of what the business community wanted; it's not 100 percent of what the environmental or development communities wanted or the cities or fire and highway districts. And I fall under this same group as everybody else."

Perhaps the biggest change from the previous plan is that housing densities have been taken out. That means there's plenty of work ahead when it comes to land-use issues.

The plan identifies how areas are designated for the future such as "scenic," "resource recreation," "country" and "suburban" as a guideline, but a zoning and development ordinance that deals with densities will be developed through a public process spearheaded by a consultant to be hired in early 2011.

The county has budgeted $350,000 for the process.

"The comp plan is not a regulatory document and, by statute, it shouldn't be," Currie said. "But it does give us guidance and direction."

Without densities, the new comp plan is expected to make it more stringent on developers, Commissioner Todd Tondee said.

"It will be a very onerous task to come up with all the planning up front," Tondee said, adding that developers will have to spend more early in the planning process.

Tondee said he hoped densities would be included in the plan. Without them, he said, he believes implementation of the plan will be more complicated and delay projects.

Another loose end that will need to be tied up by the county is that it plans to renegotiate the areas of city impact with all cities on the Rathdrum Prairie, including Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene, Rathdrum and Hauser, Tondee said.

"An overarching theme of the comp plan is to have dense development happen in the cities and to preserve the rural nature of the county," Tondee said.

Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin, who has been critical of the plan update, said he believes the county will try to meet with the cities individually.

"We won't appreciate or comply with," Larkin said. "All or none. The mayors are OK with a joint meeting with the new commissioners."

Commissioner Rich Piazza said he would have liked to see the plan refined better by the time it came to commissioners to review.

"A lot of effort was taken by the commissioners this past year to make it more concise and readable and I wish that effort would have been put on the front end rather than the back end," Piazza said.

Tondee said the plan update has been needed since 1994.

"This plan is a big step for Kootenai County," he said. "It gives us direction as to where we want to go."

The plan update began in the fall of 2006 when the firm Kezziah Watkins held "meetings in a box" to gather widespread public input.

The plan has 17 chapters such as economic development, housing, public facilities, land use, property right, and transportation.

Commissioners recently finished deliberating on the plan, so Thursday's vote was mostly a routine matter and no public comment was taken.

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