The Kootenai County Commissioners continue their lengthy deliberations on the Comprehensive Plan this coming Monday, and they are at a crucial moment. It isn’t over-stating it to say that the fate of the rural landscape is now in their hands. Your calls and emails could be helpful.

KEA members and interested individuals are strongly encouraged to contact members of the Board this week, to urge them to take action to prevent sprawl and maintain strong protections for our rural landscape.

Kootenai Environmental Alliance has been tracking the Comp Plan’s public process for several years now. Our interests, of course, are in the protection of the public health, protection of the natural environment, and the promotion of sustainable development in Kootenai County.  As of this week, the Comp Plan’s overarching goals — to direct development to areas of the county better able to sustain it, to provide greater protections to our rural areas, and to direct development away from open space and sensitive areas – are squarely before the Board of Commissioners for their decision. At their last meeting, the Commissioners decided to avoid a direct decision on the appropriate densities for rural land use. But the decision cannot be avoided forever.

Currently, the draft Comprehensive Plan describes a density for the “rural” land use designation to be one housing unit (or equivalent) per 10 to 20 acres. We support the Comp Plan’s rural density designation as an absolute minimum. Indeed, by its very definition, a truly rural land use designation would maintain a very low density for new development.  The Plan’s 10 to 20 acre designation is consistent with rural protection densities used throughout the United States and it will provide greater protection for the rural lands of the county than currently exists. 

The so-called “Citizens for Balance,” a powerful group of builders and business interests, however, have argued for allowing much denser development in our rural areas.  The problem is that development densities of 1 unit for every 3 to 10 acres are far too dense for most agricultural and traditionally rural purposes, and are not dense enough for supplying efficient services to modern residential developments.  This 3-10 acre range is precisely the sprawl-inducing, leap-frog-development-encouraging, landscape-ruining designation the Commissioners absolutely need to avoid. Taking this approach would contradict the overarching goals of the plan and the clear community-expressed preference for a clear and discrete boundary between what is rural and what is to be developed.

Commissioner Todd Tondee has been outspoken in his support for stronger rural protections, but he needs at least another vote on the Board to pass a strong plan. Please consider sending an email, a letter, or placing a phone call to the Commissioners this week (before their deliberation session this coming Monday) to express your support for better rural protection in the new Comprehensive Plan, and to support the 10-20 acre densities for rural land use designations in the current draft of the Comprehensive Plan. Act now to keep our rural lands rural.

 Contact Commissioners:  Todd Tondee, Rick Currie, Rich Piazza

451 Government Way, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83814, (208) 446-1600