Updating the Comprehensive Plan

Charting a course for the future

There is Value in Planning

Idaho State Statute (§67-6508, 67-6509) requires that all cities must plan. Without a plan, how do we know where we’re going? What is the community's vision for the future? The City of Sandpoint adopted your current Comprehensive Plan in 2009. The document considers previous and existing conditions, compatibility of land uses, trends, goals and objectives that are intended to guide the day-to-day decisions of elected officials and local government staff.

Planning Image

Keeping the Plan Current

A vision document that is intended to evolve over time, the Sandpoint Comprehensive Plan provides a 20-year vision. 2019 marks a ten-year milestone. To that end, the 2018-2020 Strategic Council Priorities and the current Master Planning efforts underway establish important points of reference for moving forward with a Comp Plan update. The review process includes extensive public involvement and any updates ultimately requires a hearing by the Planning and Zoning Commission and a formal adoption by resolution of the City Council.

Step 1

Engage the Planning Commission to review and recommend to Council what elements of the Comprehensive Plan should be updated (define the scope).

Step 2

Assess what resources are required to provide the update and develop a detailed budget for any external support (define the budget).

Step 3

Develop a detailed timeline of events for conducting a public process preferably with any adoption by September of 2020 (define the schedule)

Long Bridge Swim - Jerry Luther

The Big Picture

In a nutshell, the following 17 elements are required within a Comprehensive Plan. The Planning and Zoning Commission will review each and help steer the overall process:

  • Property Rights
  • Population
  • School Facilities and Transportation
  • Economic Development
  • Land Use
  • Natural Resources
  • Hazardous Areas
  • Public Services, Facilities, and Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Recreation
  • Special Areas or Sites
  • Housing
  • Community Design
  • Agriculture
  • Implementation
  • National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors
  • Public Airport Facilities

Where do We Begin?

First, we need to add the missing elements that are applicable to Sandpoint, including: Public Airport Facilities, National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors, and Agriculture.

Thereafter, we know from our Strategic Priorities that Housing is especially critical. Council directed staff to update the 2007 multi-jurisdictional housing assessment and to work with a variety of stakeholders to devise and implement strategies to increase the availability of entry level and workforce housing stock.

Opportunities (low-hanging fruits) may present themselves along way for refining City Code or policies in advance of plan updates. Responsive government and a commitment to continuous improvement are at the forefront of the entire planning effort.

Other critical elements of the Comprehensive Plan such as utilities, transportation, and recreation are currently undergoing a detailed review that will feed into the Comp Plan update and a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

  • Parks and Recreation Master Plan
  • Watershed / Trails Master Plan
  • Water Master Plan
  • Wastewater Facility Plan
  • Inflow/Infiltration Mitigation Plan
  • Stormwater Master Plan
  • Transportation Master Plan
  • Pedestrian & Bicycle Master Plan
  • Arts Master Plan
  • Wayfinding Plan


Low Hanging Fruit

Kids in Fountain

Identify and implement efficiencies in permitting

Consider deferring impact fees

Critically review and modify elements of the City Code relating to land use

Housing Assessment

Community Design - Historic Considerations

Permitting Process Refinements


Streamlining permitting processes can also leverage awareness of development possibilities while increasing efficiency. Staff has established the following goals in a critical review and update to permitting processes:

  1. Insure there are no surprises for projects at the onset
  2. Improve efficiency and reduce processing time
  3. Prepare for transferring into new permitting software platform

Impact Fee Deferment

Essentially, the intent of impact fees is that new growth pays for itself. In Sandpoint, impact fees are imposed for streets, parks, police, fire and pathways. They may only pay for new capital projects and are assessed based on the City’s Capital Improvement Plan. They cannot, however, be used to maintain existing infrastructure. Currently, the City of Sandpoint requires impact fees to be paid at the time a building permit is issued. Impact fees are separate from New user Facility Fees (NUFFs) which are specifically for water and sewer hookups in order to “buy into” the existing water and wastewater system.

The upfront financing costs of impacts fees can hinder development. In the state of Washington, it is required that municipalities provide impact fee deferral options for residential development. Sandpoint officials are reviewing administrative options for a deferment program.

Impact Fees
site plan

Zoning Code Refinements

Besides staff identified updates to the definitions section, opportunities for the removal of regulatory barriers, where appropriate, may present themselves in order to meet Council Priorities of diversifying housing stock such as refining standards for:

  • Accessory Dwelling Units
  • Cottage Developments
  • Planned Unit Developments

Housing Assessment

The 2007 multi-jurisdictional housing assessment could use an update! Where are the gaps between then and now? Data collection is critical and typically requires assistance by a consultant and collaboration with the county, cities, non-profits, employers, and various other stakeholders is critical to a comp plan update.

Gem Theater

Historic Considerations

Evaluation of current design standards and critically review if modifications should be implemented in order to enhance or protect the historical character within the city where applicable. Following the 2009 Comprehensive Plan adoption, the city implemented measures intended to achieve the stated goal to “retain Sandpoint’s position and image as an historic town.” Lessons can be learned from other municipalities with similar priorities. Staff will lead the valuable public outreach campaign to assess whether modifications are warranted.

Looking Forward


Stay Tuned...

This visioning and implementation effort will need a robust public process and there will be many opportunities to participate! Various opportunities for doing so may include surveys, workshops and engaging with your Planning and Zoning Commissioners, City Council Members and city staff. For questions, please contact Planning and Community Development Director Aaron Qualls at 208.255.1738