BONNERS FERRY — City residents have the chance to share what they want the city to look like over the next 20 years.
After soliciting public input at the Farmer’s Market and Rod Benders events on Saturday, June 4, city staff and SCJ Alliance Consulting Services staff hosted a public workshop on the comprehensive plan at the school district office in Boundary County.
During the public workshop, area residents provided feedback and assessed the city’s situation on several topics, including economic development, affordable housing, mixed housing, historic preservation of arts and culture, transportation, etc.
The two main interests of area residents were economic development and housing options.
When discussing the lack of housing options in Bonners Ferry, workshop participants avoided the buzzword “affordable housing”, due to the vagueness of the word. Community members at the workshop did not want to advocate for HUD-style housing, but wanted accessible housing for those who live and work in Bonners Ferry.
Aaron Qualls, project manager at SCJ Alliance, agreed with community members that there is a lack of intermediate housing within the city limits.
MissingMiddleHousing.com defines middle-income housing as a range of house-scale buildings with multiple units—compatible in size and shape with individual single-family homes—located in a walkable neighborhood.
Intermediate housing is not high-density housing, such as condos or high-rise apartments, but includes medium-density units such as duplexes or townhouses.
Community members were concerned that the lack of housing options and types of accommodation had prevented professionals from working and staying at Bonners Ferry and had a negative impact on the local economy. At the workshops, community members told city officials that they believe housing and economic development go hand in hand.
“We want our young people to stay here, but they need a job or a trust fund [to do so]a resident said of housing prices in the community.
Residents expressed a desire for increased industry and better paying jobs for workers, but the conversation always returned to the housing shortage preventing an increase in the workforce.
Other talking points were downtown beautification by adding benches and other seating to keep shoppers downtown longer and keep dollars spent in the county rather than going elsewhere. . One idea from a community member was to update Georgia Mae Square with a mobile chess set or other community feature so the space could be utilized more. The hope was that if the city center was more attractive, more money would be spent there.
The downtown beautification debate has turned to the lack of retail options.
A community member at the workshop said that when he graduated from Bonners Ferry High School in the 1970s, graduates worked in factories and lived in flats above central businesses -town. There were also several car dealerships and retail stores. Now stores are closed and stores vacant, dealerships are gone and apartments are no longer available.
Overall, community members have expressed concerns about vacant downtown storefronts, which are hurting economic earnings and opportunity. Another key discussion point was the fear of losing Bonners Ferry’s character to development.
Qualls said the global planning process is a time for the community to come together and decide on their shared values and decide how to develop and maintain those values. He asked the questions: “Where should the city be in the next 20 years? Where does the community as a whole want the city to grow? »
The answers to these questions from community members will decide the future of Bonners Ferry, he told them.
Bonners Ferry Town Administrator Lisa Ailport told the Bonners Ferry Herald that town staff received many favorable comments from the public at the farmer’s market. City staff completed 50 surveys and had to print more for community members throughout the day.
Ailport said she was impressed with the great age and demographics of those who came to the public workshop. It can be difficult to engage community members between the ages of 25 and 40 due to other commitments, but Ailport said she felt there was good city and county representation at the workshop.
She said the goal of urban planning is to be proactive rather than reactive. Being proactive will allow the city to be better laid out for the use of residents, she added.
She said the members of the Global Plan Advisory Committee were chosen using a three-pronged approach. The city wanted the community to be represented by those who live in the county but work in the city, own a business, and those who live in the city.
Advisor Valerie Thompson was also present at the workshop and was happy to see so many people on the same page when it comes to direction, investments and realistic approach to challenges.
Going forward, Thompson said she would welcome more audience participation in the workshop, but knew the June 4 venue was limited in space. She wanted residents to know that this workshop is the first step in the process.
Anyone wishing to give their opinion on the city’s overall plan or respond to a survey can go to the town hall. Later, feedback options will be available on the city’s website. City and SCJ Alliance staff will be at the Boundary County Fair all week and there will be more public workshops and public consultation meetings before the plan is adopted.
Per Idaho code, the City of Bonners Ferry is updating the comprehensive plan. All that is required for a new plan is a public hearing and a resolution passed by city council.
The Town of Bonners Ferry chose to hold a series of public workshops, hold a booth at community events to gather public input, and created an advisory committee to represent Bonners Ferry and Boundary County as a whole. to make recommendations to the plan. The city also uses planning firm SCJ Alliance Consulting Services to collect data and make detailed plan recommendations to city council before it is adopted.
To receive updates and information on the comprehensive plan, visit the city’s website at https://bonnersferry.id.gov/compplan/