Kootenai County is still on schedule to replace its hopelessly out-dated land use codes by this time next year. Kendig Keast Collaborative, the consultant hired by the County to assemble the re-write, has been moving forward, on schedule, with preliminary issue papers and draft “modules” of code language. The issue papers and draft code already released are available for ongoing public comment at the project website, kccode.com.

On Thursday, at a special earlier 11am start time, KEA’s regular “Lunch and Learn” series at the Iron Horse will feature Scott Clark from the County’s Community Development Department and Todd Messenger from Kendig Keast, who will give an update on where things stand and where things are headed. The first portion of the meeting will be a more informal discussion and question and answer session, followed by a brief presentation at noon. So come early to get your questions answered.

The code-writing is the culmination of a lengthy and sometimes-painful process of revamping the County’s approach to land use. Starting with “meetings in a box” sessions, through the overhaul of the County’s Comprehensive Plan, KEA is now engaged in this final step — which is to write the actual codes that will be the legal basis for the County’s growth and development processes for years to come.

Controversial issues, kicked down the road for years, are finally being addressed in the codes. For example: appropriate densities for development in rural areas, how to protect water quality and natural resources, how to develop in sensitive shoreline areas, how to accommodate economic growth and development without unacceptable impacts to traffic and infrastructure, and how to do it all in a streamlined but fair process.

We think that modernizing the county land use codes will be one of the most significant environmental achievements for Kootenai County in many years.  Indeed, as evidence that this is an important once-in-a-generation opportunity for the County, we’d simply point out that large portions of the current patchwork of development regulations date back to the 1970s.

To their credit, the current County Commissioners seem to be committed to keeping to a schedule and getting the job done. There is still a lot of work to be done, and embedded in the code there are a lot of difficult decisions to be made. As the process moves along to completion, it will be increasingly important to keep track of the progress. Come learn more at the meeting at the Iron Horse on Thursday.