Survey reveals division

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SANDPOINT — A countywide survey done by researchers at the University of Utah College of Law’s Environmental Disputes Resolution Program found that Bonner County residents are divided along ideological lines when it comes to private property rights and land use planning.

The local organization Project 7B sponsored the assessment, which was conducted this summer and fall. Project 7B chairman Molly O’Reilly visited the Priest River city council July 5 to get moral support for the assessment, which was paid for with $12,000 in grant funds from the University of Utah’s EDR program.

The assessment found that many county residents did not want the area to develop into sprawl like some interviewees said Coeur d’Alene and Hayden have grown into. There was also consensus on balancing property rights and proper regulation. However, community members expressed differing views of freedom and proper regulation.

“Interviewees noted and embodied a community divide in thinking about the extent to which people will act responsibly without government oversight.”

One interviewee noted that due to high housing costs in Sandpoint, lower-income residents can end up clustered in other communities of Bonner County, such as Priest River and Sagle.

“This interviewee recommended focusing on making all of the county’s municipalities affordable for working folks, to avoid certain towns becoming ‘bedroom communities’ or experiencing other problematic community dynamics.”

Project 7B’s mission has two prongs, which are “To educate citizens about, encourage citizen involvement in, and convene constructive public dialogue around land use planning in Bonner County, Idaho, so as to support land use planning based on locally shared values and aspirations,” and “To facilitate land use and planning collaboration among governmental agencies, elected officials, NGOs and citizens of Bonner County.”

For more information about Project 7B, go to project7b.org. To read the full Bonner County situation assessment, please go to http://project7b.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Bonner_County_Situation_Assessment.pdf.

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