Meeting ends when crowd grows to violate fire code

By Clarice McKenney

A small group of attendees partially blocked access, holding pro-Trump signs with the USSR hammer and sickle on the reverse side.
A small group of attendees partially blocked access, holding pro-Trump signs with the USSR hammer and sickle on the reverse side.

More than 90 people crowded the room where Boundary Board of County Commissioners intended to hear from the public about the proposed amendment to the enforcement provisions of the Boundary County Zoning and Subdivision. As has been the case since the county grudgingly adopted its first land use law in the 1970s when faced with the choice of adopting our own or having the state step in and do it for us, the discussion was contentious and didn’t end as expected.

Giving background on the proposed amendment, a county employee ran through a summary of meetings between P&Z board members, the sheriff’s office and prosecutor. “On March 11th, the Board of County Commissioners received a recommendation for its approval,” she stated, adding that the recommendations seek to bring local code in compliance with Idaho code as well as removing infractions that conflict with other infractions in the code.

“The intent of this change is for only extreme cases of violation of Planning and Zoning Regulations,” commission chair Tim Bertling stressed before calling for comments. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the people (follow) the regulations; this is only for the minute number who do not.”

At that point, there were loud and angry obscenities thrown his way by a number of audience members. Another begged the crowd to be civil.

When the chair asked who wanted to speak in favor, a man stood and, instead, warned the commissioners that by adopting the amendment they would be asking for the county to get involved in lawsuits it could not afford. He claimed that he witnessed that exact thing happening in Mariposa County, California, after he said he had warned them and they did not listen to him.

County resident Tim Patton spoke in favor. He explained that he knew a real estate agent who abused zoning laws. “There was no penalty for her.”

John Poland of Naples also spoke in favor of the county enforcing rules already on the books.

“We don’t want new rules and we’ve played by the current rules and expect them to be enforced for everyone,” he said. “When people are not held responsible for violating (common-sense) regulations, by default, they’re given permission to violate those.”

Gerald Higgs of Wild Horse Lane also spoke in support of “basic ground rules” he said everyone should follow in order that neighbors do not have to live with what sometimes become neighborhood junkyards. He talked about personally knowing of two individuals in the crowd who were there to speak against the P&Z regulations change who, he said, commit “persistent violations.”

A Naples resident then spoke for many in the crowd by asking, “Why not make it a civil process? Most people are here in opposition to this being considered criminal (a misdemeanor). If the civil process here is broken, let’s fix it.” She received loud and appreciative applause at that.

There were calls among the members of the crowd to “move this meeting to a larger place,” and many angrily claimed the notice of the meeting was “last minute.” One crowd member who said she had come “only to listen” said more than adequate notice had been published, but her comment was heard by just a few.

When some in the crowd stated that the meeting violated the fire code, first-term District 3 County Commissioner Ben Robertson moved to adjourn the meeting.

“Instead of wasting everyone’s time, I move to adjourn. I’m not moving to table it,” when some angrily argued. “Maybe we’ll bring this back in a different form and in a better room. At the other meetings we had on this, ten were the most who came.”

A woman who before the meeting began had cautioned her group to be polite, complained about meeting notices being “only in the Herald. Most of us don’t want to buy the Herald. Could you send us public hearing notices?”

The woman who earlier had tried to clarify to the crowd about the timely meeting notices then said more loudly from the back, “All meeting notices are on the county’s website.”

As people began filing out, the last word came from a man in the crowd who identified himself from the back of the room. “My name’s Todd Engle, and now I don’t have to run for county commissioner.”

7 thoughts on “Meeting ends when crowd grows to violate fire code

  1. The people that threw loud and angry obscenities at Tim Bertling should have been expelled from the room.

    1. it was all owen benjamins supporters. he told them on his stream to ruin the hearing

  2. This has all been caused by Owen Benjamin. Who tried to move his cult of “bears” into this area. He had the cult members building structures for his compound, saying; “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

    1. The P & Z board’s failure to take a stand against Benjamin at his hearing did contribute to the problems we have now.

  3. This is Owen Benjamin’s fault. He uses free slave labor to build unsafe structures on his property. This town has become worse since he moved in.

  4. According to the article, five times the usual number of people showed up for for the debate on zoning enforcement.
    There is no doubt this is due to Owen Benjamin inciting his cult of “bears” attend with the intent to disturb and make a mockery of the official precedings.
    I hope that the P&Z Board listens to actual North Idaho voters! We desperately want a legal mechanism to stop Hollywood transplants like Owen Benjamin from moving next door and setting up another cult compound on land zoned for residential use.

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