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Growth not the panacea developers promise
December 21, 2017
It is with great sadness that I’ve observed the transitioning of Boundary County from rural agricultural to suburbia. We are now experiencing a level of chain migration that will exponentially increase the number of residents and eliminate our traditional rural way of life, very soon.

Regionally, there has been a population explosion that has resulted in Coeur d’Alene merging with Spokane. That same pattern is rapidly pushing through the Sandpoint area, with Boundary County now on the northern edge of that trend.

Of course, there will always be members of our community who will have excuses for why we “need” to promote more growth and development. Granted, if we continue this pattern, some locals will become wealthy, i.e. realtors and developers, but at what cost to those who live here because of what it is and not because of the potential to make a quick buck?

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

“We need to create more jobs so our kids don’t have to leave the area to find employment.”

Well, guess what? As growth brings more industry to the area, so will more move here for those jobs. The American way is about competition, not entitlements. With that growth comes more congestion, more traffic, more pollution, more crime, more taxes … more of the urban chaos that those moving here are bringing with them.

And while on that topic, just why are the urban exiles coming here, then encouraging their family and friends to do likewise? Do they really have Idaho values and interests, or might it be due to the fact that they can sell their “starter homes” in San Francisco, Seattle, LA, New York, etc., for $1.5 million, then buy “cheap” property to build fancy houses with pretty views on small parcels throughout the county, with hundreds of thousands left to put into the bank?

Do we really need to subsidize their lifestyles while they destroy ours?

There are things that can be done to take a stand against the plundering of Boundary County, and maybe there are still enough of us around who care. Relatively speaking, there is no money in preservation, and those who have the most to gain financially will always be the most vocal in promoting their own interests.

Unfortunately, the days of the Wild West, where one could defend their territory, are long gone. In this era, the only remaining authority with the ability to protect our lands and limit expansion is local government and, more specifically, the Planning and Zoning department, under the direction of the County Commissioners.

Certainly, there are some regulations already in place, but improvements are possible and needed.

I would propose that the following steps be taken aggressively to protect the future of Boundary County.

First, we need leadership that is serious about controlling growth and development. We need to stop allowing those aforementioned influential groups the upper hand in determining our future. I would venture that the silent majority of established Boundary County residents are sickened by what is happening here, and would support more serious efforts to keep growth in check.

Second, minimum acreage requirements for home construction should be at least doubled from the current minimums. Third, only one division of a land parcel, assuming minimum acreage requirements are still met, would be permitted in a ten-year period.

Next, any construction by a non-resident of Idaho would have a substantial surcharge, i.e. $50,000 or greater, to help mitigate the impact on our infrastructure. A similar plan to this latter proposal has been established in Ontario, Canada, and for the same purpose.

Another good plan using the Canadian model is the concept of the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR), whereby prime agricultural lands are protected from development and non-agricultural uses.

Finally, we need to get smarter about selling properties and start pricing them at levels proportionate to what those moving here have sold their urban domains for. Simply stated, don’t be so quick to succumb to a lower counter offer. Once again, why should those invading our rural lands be rewarded?

I’m sure the statements and proposals I’ve made will result in some lashing out in retaliation, especially by the “movers and shakers” in the community. However, one would have to have their head buried in the sand to not see that we are at an extremely critical point in the future of Boundary County, where innovative and drastic measures are required to preserve our rural tradition.

If we don’t act now, Boundary County will look more like the Spokane Valley within the next two decades. Is that really what the citizens of this special place want for their future?
Stuart Nelson, Jr.
Bonners Ferry
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