Public input sought in economic, development planning

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Three open houses are scheduled next week for Lincoln County residents to ask questions and give input about the draft Lincoln County Growth Policy, as well as the county’s draft Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

In addition to the meetings, there is a survey that residents can access at planlincolncounty.com.

The website also has copies of the draft goals and actions for the policies and a report on existing conditions.

While the growth policy and economic development strategy have some similarities — economic development is a part of the growth policy as well — the CEDS is more focused on economic development, said Matthew Rohrbach, a community planner with Land Solutions.

Land Solutions was contracted with by the county to assist in developing the two documents.

“When you start talking about economic development, it doesn’t really exist in a vacuum,” Rohrback said. Everything from land use to availability of housing has an impact.

But the economic development strategy also addresses things such as “economic resiliency,” he said. That can mean seeking a diversified economy that isn’t taken down by a turn in a single industry, as well as looking at how existing industries might be vulnerable to national or local economic changes.

In February, representatives from Land Solutions met with the Lincoln County Commissioners and with the planning board, discussing what the county needs and how Lincoln County residents want to see it develop.

Some of the areas identified in those meetings included national policy on federally-held lands, development of timber and mining resources, housing, broadband Internet service and public safety.

Rohrbach said the open houses and survey are meant to further gauge the priorities of the Lincoln County residents.

The policies that are developed from ongoing discussions will help to guide the development of future county policies, Rohrbach said. Additionally, they can help the community to secure “a seat at the table” when dealing with state and federal entities.

Having a clear set of goals and priorities that has been vetted by the public can help in those situations, he said.

“It’s not necessarily that the federal government’s going to take it wholeheartedly, but I think what it shows is that the county went through the public process, and they identified that these are the priorities,” he said. “This is the county’s stance towards these larger issues on federal land. Whether it be pertaining to natural resource or wildlife management.”

Rohrback stressed that none of the goals or strategies are set in stone. These are simply what they have developed from discussions so far.

“It’s not like we’re trying to recommend that this should happen,” he said. “We’re just trying to say, ‘OK, we’ve heard what some of the issues are. Here’s some ways that other communities have addressed them.’”

Now, they want to find out whether the community supports those ideas, and what other things they would like to see brought to the table.

The Troy open house is scheduled for Tuesday at the Kootenai Senior Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Libby open house is scheduled for Wednesday at the Venture Inn, in the Fjord Room, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

There will be a final open house in Eureka on Thursday at Lincoln County High School, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Find more information at planlincolncounty.com.

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