13. Land Use
13.1. NATURAL LAND TYPES AND PREDOMINANT USES:
13.1.1. Boundary County is rich in natural resources and by virtue of the Selkirk, Purcell and Cabinet Mountains, separated by the Purcell Trench and the Kootenai and Moyie Rivers, the County possesses a unique topography that has defined the traditional and current primary land uses throughout the jurisdiction; from the wild forests teeming with game to the fertile, productive farmland. This natural landscape has molded the development of Boundary County, from the “urban” centers of our two municipalities, Moyie Springs and Bonners Ferry to the surrounding mountains of the Panhandle National Forest. Each part of this unique landscape possesses value far beyond the primary land uses specified below, and it’s the overall combination of these characteristics that define the physical nature of Boundary County; including but not limited to its scenic beauty, the wild open spaces, and rural atmosphere.
13.1.2. The primary goal of this comprehensive plan is to enable and encourage responsible management in its appropriate place and in the appropriate density, such that those who own land are afforded the best and highest use of their property in their own best interests. And the people attempting to earn their living here may do so; that the rich natural resources remain accessible and available; and that the people who choose to live here for the peace and tranquility this country affords may do so as well; and that all these diverse interests may be mutually accomplished in a manner that the values we cherish today remain to be cherished equally by our children and their children.
13.2. PRIMARY LAND USES: Based on the data compiled in the preceding sections the following are the predominant land uses currently practiced within Boundary County:
13.2.1. Forestry: Over 75-percent of Boundary County is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Idaho Department of Lands and the Bureau of Land Management for forest management and the multiple uses our forests provide; to include timber harvest, recreation, wildlife habitat and primary watershed management. These lands are predominantly maintained in large, undeveloped tracts valued primarily for the diverse economic and outdoor recreational opportunities they afford, their critical watersheds, their wildlife habitat and their scenic beauty.
13.2.2. Agriculture: Post glacial flows of the Kootenai River and flooding over many centuries laid down in the Kootenai River Valley rich, fertile soils, creating some of the most productive farm lands in the world, and the valley has traditionally and continues to be used primarily for large-scale agricultural production maintained in large, mostly undeveloped tracts that are well defined in the soils analysis. These lands are best suited for the production of food and fiber and they are valued not only for their economic contribution, but for their scenic beauty and their role in affording the rural qualities that define Boundary County’s heritage and culture. While these lands by no means comprise all the productive farm land in Boundary County, these have been identified as essential to the culture and heritage of our community. Boundary County recognizes and appreciates that farming and other agricultural practices are subject to special protection as stated in the Idaho Right to Farm Act.
13.2.3. Mineral Exploration/Extraction: With the exception of the Continental Mine in northern Boundary County, the main mining activities within Boundary County are the extraction of sand, gravel and rock, as established in the Natural Resources section of this plan. Productive deposits of sand and gravel are found in diverse areas of Boundary County, and numerous pits and quarries are currently in operation. Mineral exploration and extraction are important to the economy of Boundary County, and one of the goals of this plan is to identify those areas that are conducive to mining and those areas where mining would be detrimental to other land uses, such as high density residential areas, sensitive wildlife habitat or near surface waters. It is recognized that mineral extraction can only occur where those minerals occur naturally, and that mineral resources are not uniformly or evenly distributed.
13.2.4. Recreation: Boundary County does not possess any major topographical feature singled out for recreational enjoyment, but instead offers recreational opportunities in diverse locations throughout the county, including wild land areas, alpine to lowland lakes, rivers, and streams, all of which offer excellent recreational opportunity. Tracts of land, particularly along the upper Moyie River, have been recognized and developed primarily for recreational use.
13.2.5. Housing: Determining suitable density for residential development is tied to the ability to serve future residents adequately with water, septic, fire protection, schools, law enforcement and roads as well as the avoidance of hazardous and sensitive areas. Issues heavily discussed during community workshops to develop this Comprehensive Plan included maintaining the rural character of the community, preserving an individual’s right to build the home that best suits their family’s circumstance and need, maintaining water availability and quality, and the desire to focus higher development density into those areas where the infrastructure is currently in place so that expansion can keep ahead of expected growth at minimal cost to the taxpayer. In addition, it was determined that costs of providing infrastructure necessary to a proposed improvement should be borne by the developer, which will require the establishment of certain minimal standards to be required as conditions of approval; to include but not limited to standards for roads, utility placement and installation, and fire protection. Minimum parcel sizes within high-density zone districts should be dependent on the level of service available, especially water and/or sewer service. Where one or both is available, a higher density could be allowed; where neither is available a minimum parcel size of no less than 2 ½ acres should be maintained so as to adequately accommodate both a well and a septic system on a single parcel. It is recognized that the only factor in the provision of affordable housing exercised by the county is in the establishment of minimum lot sizes through land use zoning laws.
13.2.6. Commerce and Industry: In formulating this comprehensive plan, it has been found that a lack of strictly commercial or industrial zone designations has hampered the county’s ability to attract and recruit enterprise due to the lack of certainty such businesses face in attempting to locate here. Areas of the county do exist which are suitable for commercial and industrial use by virtue of the availability of services and access to sufficient county roads and state highways, railroads and air service. The airport assessment in the transportation component cites a need for restricting residential development in areas critical to aircraft operation, and establishing commercial and industrial zones in those areas would protect the public as well as provide a measure of certainty for those considering locating businesses here.
13.2.7. Public Facilities: As noted in the Public Services, Facilities and Utilities component of this plan, Boundary County itself provides little in the way of infrastructure with the exception of county roads, relying instead on private industry and the initiative of citizens to form associations and taxing districts for the provision of needed services, primarily electricity, gas, telephone and communications, water and fire protection. There is little reason to see any change in this direction in the foreseeable future. Provisions favorable to public service providers should be retained to allow for the systematic expansion of such services so as to best serve the citizens of Boundary County.
13.3. PROPOSED LAND USE: Based on the analysis that went into the formulation of this Comprehensive Plan, it is recommended that Boundary County adopt the following maximum land use densities, which, along with comprehensive land use designations (13.5, below) are more fully depicted on the Boundary County Comprehensive Land Use Map:
13.3.1. 0 – 2.5 Acres: Residential areas within city areas of impact, with density to be determined by the availability of public services, including water and sewer, and minimum parcel size requirements established by the municipality. If both water and septic services are available, a higher density should be allowed, as determined by the minimum parcel size requirements established by the municipality. If either but not both services are available, a minimum parcel size of one acre should be established. Where neither public water nor septic service is available, a minimum parcel size of two and one half acres should be established to accommodate placement of a well and septic system. (See designations Airport, Industrial, Commercial/Light Industrial, Rural Community/Commercial, Residential.)
13.3.2. 1-2.5 Acres: Residential areas outside municipal areas of impact but located on their fringe or around unincorporated community centers, to include Naples, Porthill, Eastport and Three Mile Junction, and which are served by fire protection and community water service and which have sufficient road access. These areas would be located on generally flat to slightly sloping ground and outside identified hazardous areas. (See designation Suburban.)
13.3.3. 5 Acres: Areas within the county where sufficient access is available by county roads and state highways, and where public services are generally available. Development may be limited by insufficient access from county roads due to terrain, steep slope, flood plain or wetland. (See designation Rural Residential.)
13.3.4. 10 Acres: Those lands which are served by existing county roads, but where road condition or lack of easement may restrict increased residential development. Public services may or may not be available, and development may be limited by insufficient access, steep slopes, flood plains or wetland. (See designations Agriculture/Forestry.)
13.3.5. 10 Acres: Lands along the Kootenai River extending from just east of Bonners Ferry to the Canadian border encompassing most but not all of the Schnoorson-Devoignes-Farnhamton soil type identified in the Boundary County General Soil Map. These lands, by virtue of their fertile, productive soils, are well suited for growing and raising food and fiber, and are valued for their economic contribution, scenic beauty and the role they play in defining the culture and heritage of Boundary County. In addition to retaining characteristics deemed essential to Boundary County, such designation would also discourage development in un-numbered flood plains lying along the Kootenai River. (See designation Prime Agriculture.)
13.3.6. 160 Acres: Those large, sparsely developed tracts of mainly forested land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and by the State of Idaho for multiple uses. These lands are valued for the diverse economic and outdoor recreational opportunities they afford, their critical watersheds, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty. (See designation Prime Forestry.)
13.4. GENERAL SUBDIVISION CONSIDERATIONS: Boundary County recognizes that there are varying types or classes of subdivisions that differ significantly in scope and density. Development standards should consider and reflect that complexity. Proposed development of higher density subdivisions should provide for the installation of all-weather roads of sufficient width and capacity to accommodate emergency vehicles and vehicular and pedestrian traffic, fire protection, and utilities including water, electricity and septic. Roads and easements should be platted so as to avoid future conflicts. Low density subdivisions should at minimum provide for access and utility easements to county roads with slope and width to allow for future upgrade. The cost of the installation or improvement of roads, utilities or other infrastructure necessitated by the subdivision of land should not be borne by Boundary County; roads intended for adoption by Boundary County should be built and surfaced to standards established by Boundary County.
13.5. COMPREHENSIVE LAND USE MAP DESIGNATIONS: The following comprehensive land use map designations are proposed, and their general outlines depicted on the Boundary County Comprehensive Land Use Map accompanying this plan:
13.5.1. Airport Overlay Zone District: That area within the overlay zone district including land owned by Boundary County and managed in conjunction with the Boundary County Airport Board for the primary purpose of landing and takeoff of aircraft and aviation-related activity. Due to the level of federal restriction and special requirements necessary for development within this zone district, land use jurisdiction should be ceded to the Airport Board and the Board of County Commissioners, as presented in ordinance 2012-02.
13.5.2. Industrial: Those areas of the county which, by virtue of their location, the availability of utilities and services and their proximity to a combination of road, rail and/or air transportation corridors, are suitable for industrial use and development and restricted residential development. The purpose of this designation is to encourage and promote economic development and industry in a manner conducive to maintaining the overall rural characteristics of the community. Industrial and manufacturing uses are appropriate and compatible with this designation. Industrial uses which present substantial life safety concerns including but not limited to large explosive hazard or potential large release of poison gas could be considered as conditional uses. Likewise, commercial activities which bring large numbers of people into the industrial zone may be considered as conditional uses to plan for public safety. Residential development should be limited solely to an owner/caretaker’s residence. Minimum parcel size within this designation should allow flexibility to adequately accommodate the individual enterprise.
13.5.3. Commercial/Light Industrial: Those areas of Boundary County which, by virtue of their location, the availability of utilities and services and by their proximity to a combination of road, rail and/or air transportation, are best suited for commercial and light industrial uses, where residential development would be limited solely to an owner/caretaker’s residence. The purpose of this designation is to encourage and promote economic development in a manner conducive to existing residential uses. Uses which could be considered appropriate and compatible with this designation include both commercial uses and industrial uses in which noise and dust are well contained. Very large enterprises may be considered as a conditional use. Development standards should include provisions not only essential to the conduct of the business, but to mitigate adverse effect on surrounding residential development. Minimum parcel size should be sufficient to accommodate the use and subject to the level of public services available.
13.5.4. Rural Community/Commercial: Those areas of the county located primarily in municipal areas of impact and within unincorporated communities which combine both low-impact commercial enterprises and residential use to create a “small town” ambiance suited to the needs in each particular community. In addition to areas within the Bonners Ferry and Moyie Springs areas of impact, such designation would include the communities of Porthill, Eastport, Naples and, to a lesser extent, the Three Mile area. The purpose of this designation is to enhance the small town contributions to local economies and to promote the rural qualities they afford. Compatible commercial uses would impact neighbors with low or intermittent noise levels. Traffic impacts should be expected in this zone. More intensive enterprises may be considered as conditional uses provided applicants can mitigate concerns such as noise, dust, and odor. Commercial development standards should include provisions to preserve aesthetic appeal and to contribute to the rural qualities esteemed in this area. Minimum lot size should be dependent on the level of available public services; in those areas where municipal water and sewer service are available, minimum lot size could be reduced to as low as ¼-acre; where either public water or sewer, but not both, are available, a minimum lot size of not less than one acre should be imposed; where neither public water or sewer is available, a minimum parcel size of two and one half acres should be imposed to accommodate private well and septic system.
13.5.5. Residential: Areas within city areas of impact, with minimum parcel size to be determined by the availability of city services, including water and sewer, and minimum parcel size requirements established by the municipality. If city services are available, a higher density could be allowed; if no city services are available, a minimum parcel size of one acre should be required. The purpose of the designation is to provide for the systematic expansion of city and county services for residential development. High density residential development such as duplex, and multifamily residential structures would be compatible with this designation. Light uses with low impact, as well as community gathering areas or services could be considered as conditional uses. Commercial or industrial use should be prohibited so as to provide for the quiet enjoyment of residential use.
13.5.6. Suburban: Those lands lying outside areas of impact but on their fringe or in close proximity, and those lying outside rural community/commercial areas in unincorporated community centers suitable for higher residential density by virtue of the availability of fire protection, adequate public services and roads. The purpose of this designation is to retain the qualities enjoyed for rural residential use by encouraging uses compatible with family residential use, to make available more affordable housing and to provide for the systematic expansion and improvement of public services. Where either public water or sewer are available, a minimum lot size of not less than one acre may be imposed; where neither public water or sewer is available, a minimum parcel size of two and one half acres may be imposed to accommodate private well and septic system. Uses in this zone are limited by the proximity of houses as dense as one per acre. Light uses with minimal impacts are most appropriate to the zone. More intensive uses may also fit well within this zone, but should be considered as conditional uses subject to public hearing to determine if impacts may be mitigated. Many intense uses will be precluded due to insufficient land area to mitigate impacts. Commercial development standards should include provisions not only essential to the conduct of the business, but to mitigate and minimize adverse effect on surrounding residential development.
13.5.7. Rural Residential: Those lands which may lie well outside community centers but which by virtue of adequate roads and the availability of public services, to include water and fire protection, make them suitable for large lot residential development and compatible commercial and light industrial uses. The purpose of this designation is to encourage continued agricultural and silvicultural productivity and use of these lands, while affording residents within the zone district enjoyment of the rural qualities of life such property affords. Uses compatible with this designation include farming, ranching, timber harvest, small commercial and light industrial enterprises . Uses which could not be made compatible with the goals and objectives of this designation and which should be prohibited may include some large scale enterprises with land insufficient to mitigate concerns such as noise and dust; auto wrecking yards/junk yards, and off-premise commercial signs. A minimum parcel size of not less than five acres should be imposed. Commercial development standards should include provisions not only essential to the conduct of the business, but to mitigate adverse effect on surrounding residential development.
13.5.8. Agriculture/Forestry: Those rural lands which compose the remainder of private land in the county not designated for higher development density often due to limited availability of water, roads and fire protection. These lands constitute the largest private ownership zone district and have historically been used for many purposes, especially agriculture and silviculture. Land use specifications should reflect this diversity of uses, permitting a range of light uses in these large parcels where they will not impact neighbors. Moderate uses may also be located where the distance from neighbors limits impacts. More intensive uses may also fit well within this zone, but should be considered as conditional uses subject to public hearing to determine if impacts may be mitigated. A residential development density of not less than 10 acres should be imposed.
13.5.9. Prime Agriculture: Large tracts of sparsely populated land whose fertile, productive soils make them best suited for growing and raising food and fiber and which are valued for their economic contribution, scenic beauty and the role these lands play in defining the culture and heritage of Boundary County. The objective within this designation is to retain the integrity of our prime agricultural lands and to engender the continued production of the resources they provide. Land uses that are complementary to agricultural production are to be promoted to preserve this vital resource. Many uses, including intensive industrial and commercial uses may be compatible with this zone by virtue of large spaces between neighbors to mitigate noise. While these lands may be suitable for residential development, it is deemed that retaining these lands as open farmland is essential and desired. Precedence in land use decisions should weigh in favor of agricultural pursuits and discourage fragmentation. Prime Agriculture lands may utilize Transfer of Development Rights, whereby a landowner may sell the rights to develop the property as a subdivision but retain the land for agricultural production. A minimum parcel size of not less than 10 acres should be imposed.
13.5.10. Prime Forestry: Those large, sparsely developed tracts of primarily forested land under state or federal ownership valued for the diverse economic and outdoor recreational opportunity they afford, critical watersheds, wildlife habitat, their scenic beauty and the role these forested lands play in the culture and heritage of Boundary County. The objective of this designation is to retain the diversity of our forest lands and to engender the continued productivity of and accessibility to the natural resources they provide by promoting compatible land uses and to preserve a vital resource by discouraging continued fragmentation. While these lands may be suitable for limited residential development, in most cases such development will be limited by the unavailability of adequate public services and by generally steep slopes associated with these lands. Land uses should be determined by the state or federal owners. A minimum parcel size of 160 acres should be imposed.