Appeals Procedure Changes

Bonner County Code Section 12-262: Changes to the Appeals Procedure for Land Use  Variances

March 2016

Bonner County Code was amended to change appeals of land-use decisions in four ways. 

  1. Removed standards for evaluating requests for appeals. The previous standards required the appealing party to demonstrate that a Planning and Zoning (P&Z) decision:
    1. exceeded its statutory authority; or
    2. was arbitrary or capricious; or
    3. was not supported by the public record or resulted from an unlawful procedure.
  2. Removed the fee for filing appeals
  3. Empowered the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to hold de novo hearings, which are made “anew” and therefore don’t have to accept information shared in public hearings or through deliberations of the Planning Commission
  4. Appeals hearings would be held during regular weekly commissioners business meetings, with 48 hours notice, without any other public notice requirements

To find the amended code please link to the Bonner County codes and navigate to Title 12, Chapter 2, Subchapter 2.6, and then 12-626 (Appeals from Final Decision of Commission).

Pros Cons
Removes the burden on the appealing party to demonstrate a P&Z decision failed to meet the required standards. Without standards that discourage frivolous or groundless appeals, the Planning staff, and possibly the county commissioners, will spend more time on appeals.
The appealing party will no longer have to pay a fee to pay for hearing transcripts and public noticing requirements and other costs associated with an appeal. Although an appeals applicant would be spared postal and advertising costs, Bonner County taxpayers would ultimately be paying the bill.
After making their appeal to the P&Z, appellants get a new hearing before the County Commissioners, who make the final decision. The Commissioners’ decision is not required to take into account the public record of evidence collected by the P&Z. Because the P&Z reviews land use applications to check them against state and local land use codes, this, in turn, could result in poorly-regulated land use development that could threaten property and environmental health.
Commissioners’ business meetings are held weekly and have less notice requirements, meaning appeals can be heard earlier than before. People who cannot attend the commissioners’ business meetings would effectively be silenced.