The “Zoom boom” economy has exploded in Bonner County — one of many western outdoorsy communities getting flooded with “amenity migrants” seeking a better and, for some, a more affordable place to live. Newcomers are being encouraged to move here by groups like the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is buying Google ads that ask: “Tired of never-ending taxes and regulation? Discover the free life in Idaho.” In the past year, the county planning staff has processed more than 1,300 building location permits, over 100 minor land divisions, 18 text amendments to the zoning code, 10 comprehensive plan amendments, 12 zone changes, and more than 35 variances. “It’s really overwhelming,” Planning Director Milton Ollerton told Bonner County commissioners at a recent planning workshop. Managing this tsunami of applications is a relatively inexperienced staff that has been operating under a director recruited in 2015 to streamline land use laws in a county where “smart growth” — a planning philosophy that promotes concentrating density near urban services — is sometimes treated as a dirty word. Meanwhile, volunteers from around the county have participated in committee meetings for months — some for almost four years — to develop neighborhood specific (“subarea”) land use plans that cover hundreds of square miles. From Sagle to Selle Valley to Blanchard, the dominant theme of these plans is to protect the rural quality of life; preserving large parcels to protect traditional land uses, as well as wildlife habitat, water quality, dark skies and to keep traffic manageable […]