Zone plan drawing mixed reviews

SANDPOINT — A rezoning proposal for several local neighborhoods could mean big changes for the way people live and work in non-commercial regions.

Set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sandpoint City Hall, a public hearing will help city officials finalize specifications for mixed-use residential zones, which will allow businesses like professional offices, bed and breakfasts and pubs with fewer than 60 seats. Individuals residing in several residential neighborhoods, including those bordering Division Avenue, Pine Street and more will be impacted by the changes.  

The proposal carries its share of supporters and opponents. At an Oct. 1 public hearing, Kate Botkin said her neighborhood on South Third Avenue already feels like a mixed-use region and the changes fall in line with that atmosphere.  

However, others like Philip Levesque worry about the potential negative impact of businesses in residential areas. At the Oct. 1 meeting, Levesque said his home just off Division Avenue near Main Street was an excellent place to raise children. However, he worried that could change if businesses are allowed into the area.

In particular, he cited additional car and foot traffic, as well as an increase in crime and noise and light pollution.

In response, commission members pulled the zoning changes along Division back south of Main Street. However, they noted property owners could still request a zone change north of Main in the future.

North Division has long been a battleground when it comes to mixed use planning. According to Councilwoman Carrie Logan, planners behind the Sandpoint Comprehensive Plan had mixed uses for the city in mind while drafting the document in 2009. However, they engaged in much debate over the area north of Division and Main out of consideration for the apartments, homes and Farmin Stidwell Elementary School.

“My impression is we did go for mixed use originally, but Main Street ended up being our dividing line,” she said.

Other regions impacted by the proposed changes include areas of northern Sandpoint south of Schweitzer Cutoff Road, blocks near Pine and Michigan, sections just off Highway 2 and certain chunks of downtown Sandpoint — particularly around Bonner General Hospital. Most of these areas are currently designated as commercial neighborhood or professional office zones. However, small chunks of industrial general and residential will also be converted.  

The Sandpoint Planning Commission spent the last several months working on the new zoning in an effort to strike a balance between residential peace and flexibility. Members undertook the final round of revisions on Oct. 1 before clearing it for council inspection.

Those interested in seeing whether their specific address is affected can find a map and additional information at www.cityofsandpoint.com/cityagendas.asp and clicking on the “Public hearing on zone changes” link in the City Council section. 

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