Private Property & Small Business Owner Rights Violation - Bonner County, ID

We have a PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS VIOLATION happening in Bonner County right now. We write this to inform you, but also to encourage you to let your voices be heard, if you feel moved to do so.
Case Aug 30, 2022
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Hello Neighbors – 

We have a PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS VIOLATION happening in Bonner County right now. We write this to inform you, but also to encourage you to let your voices be heard, if you feel moved to do so. 

Here are the details:

Mountain Traders in Elmira was given express permission by private landowners to put signs up near the Highway 95 at reasonable distances from the road, to better inform travelers that the business is up ahead. The county threatened one of the landowners that if he did not take them down, it would be a violation of $600 per day, per sign. As of today, the 2nd landowner has now been told the sign on his property is to come down as well. 

Here is what has transpired so far:

1. In June, the owners of Mountain Traders met with members of Bonner County Planning & Zoning. There was a serious lack of interest in helping small local businesses.

 2. Some weeks later, the owners met with Commissioner Steve Bradshaw to state their case. He agreed that the zoning code was too restrictive. During the meeting Steve called the Director of Planning, Jake Gabelle, into his office, who then, for the second time, showed zero interest in aiding small local businesses in succeeding by discussing compromises to the restrictive signage limitations. He stated that the change would be “controversial”, and that if they did decide to pursue this, the process must first come through an application and a $2,000 fee for the planning board to even consider the proposed changes… no guarantees and no refunds.

3. Last Thursday 8/25/22, one of the owners of Mountain Traders was contacted by an ITD agent. He informed him that all of their “off-premises” signs must come down according to state law, and that private property owners have no right to go against the signage laws. He somewhat jokingly informed the owner of Mountain Traders that he didn’t want to have to use a chainsaw to take them down himself.

Effects of the restrictions:

· The public remains uninformed of small, local businesses that rely on locals & tourists to keep their businesses alive and thriving

· The chain stores continue to thrive with business & given special privileges

· Property owners and businesses are required to ask permission from the government to use their property as they choose

· Permission has slim chance of being granted

· Zoning code change requests to the county cost $2000 just to apply

· Big business can afford to do whatever it takes to obtain the necessary permits


Mountain Traders has spoken with residents that have failed at attempts to have businesses located in the area due to these very restrictions. Mountain Traders, a primarily consignment business, is now home to 175 families & individuals, all simply trying to make ends meet through their sales there. Several of them came to them last year as they were opening their doors for business, just to say they were getting shut out of holiday fairs & shows due to Covid restrictions. Their goal was to give them a place to go…. and by the grace of God, they did!

In today’s world of hundreds of ways to advertise, it is difficult for struggling local businesses to pay for these multiple, expensive methods. High speed highways like 95 are a prime place for signs to be located, in moderation, giving the travelers opportunity to slow down and patronize local businesses, strengthening the economy in the area, & blessing hard-working local families.

Frequently, they get locals thanking them for having the signs they do have, simply to remind them to stop for something they need. That is about to change. Thus far, NO ONE HAS COMPLAINED except state & county government.

With the people in this region struggling as it is, local businesses & the people of North Idaho deserve better. It's imperative that we stick together and support the property rights of the local residents and rights of the local small business owners. If you would like to express your thoughts or concerns to those with the power to do something to change this, here is some contact information. 

Bonner County Planning

 Idaho Transportation Dept. (ITD)

  • George Shutes, (D1 Bonners Ferry ITD shed Foreman) - (208) 661-9028
  • Stacy Simkins - Project Coordinator ITD - 208-772-1215

Bonner County Commissioners 

We also encourage you to reach out to your state legislators and Governor to encourage them to do whatever they can, in their own Constitutional capacities, to defend the rights of Idahoans.

Thanks for all you do to claim, use, and defend our God given rights! 



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