County replies to land use code critics

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Some of a Republican group's concerns about Kootenai County's land use code are already going to be addressed, and some are off base, according to county officials and the consultant helping write the code.

"I'm very cognizant of people's property rights, and we welcome participation, especially to address specific concerns in the code," said Commissioner Dan Green about the drafting of the Unified Land Use Code.

Green said on Wednesday morning that he had yet to see the resolution passed by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee at a meeting on Tuesday. The document contends that the ULUC as written would violate property rights, and it calls for the commissioners to hold regional hearings and notice property owners individually.

Upon learning the committee's requests, Green said hearings are already slated to be held on the draft ULUC.

Hearings will be scheduled before the Planning and Zoning Commission, he said, and then before the county commissioners.

"Those won't be until after the first of the year," Green said.

As for holding regional hearings, he said "it's something to look into, if it facilitates people getting to comment."

Green acknowledged that some have requested the county send out direct mailings about the code and related meetings.

But as there are roughly 37,000 parcels outside the cities that would be affected by the ULUC, he estimated the cost of mailings could reach the tens of thousands.

"I don't know if people would support that kind of expenditure," he said, adding that meetings are already noticed in the newspaper. "And if we start noticing this kind of meeting by mail, what other kind of meetings (will follow suit)? It could set a precedent."

Scott Clark, Community Development director, said the county has arranged meetings about the ULUC with several civic organizations, on top of 11 "living room" meetings with groups of citizens like homeowners associations.

"The living room meetings have been by request," Clark said. "If a group of individuals is interested, we would like to accommodate that."

Anyone can request to be added to county e-mail blasts about ULUC meetings, too, he said.

To request a meeting about the ULUC, or to be added to the email list, call Community Development at: 446-1073.

Folks can also email Clark at sclark@kcgov.us.

Todd Messenger with Kendig Keast Collaborative, the consultant helping write the new code, said concerns raised at Tuesday's KCRCC meeting weren't necessarily valid.

Messenger objected to a concern that KKC might not follow private property laws set by the state in 1995.

There has been no indication the Idaho Local Land Use Planning Act won't be followed, he said.

"We've read the Idaho Code, we've worked with Pat Braden, the county attorney responsible for land use issues," Messenger said. "When (Braden) throws down a red flag, we'll listen to him."

He also rejected worries that property owners might be forbidden from subdividing their property.

"Subdivision is something we think is good," Messenger said.

The county and consultant are working to update an agreement with local cities on areas of city impact, he added, to allow subdivision where it is now forbidden.

Messenger noted that when folks have attended meetings and made specific suggestions, their advice is often taken.

Broader land uses have been written in for farms, he said, based on a suggestion from Leah Southwell.

"When people bring specific things to our attention, we work with them," Messenger said. "When they bring non-specific objections, there's really not a lot we can do."

To concerns about an out-of-area consultant helping rewrite county laws, Messenger said KKC works carefully to understand clients' communities.

"There are always advantages and disadvantages to being from the outside," he acknowledged. "The key advantage that's quite useful to Kootenai County is we don't come with any baggage. We have no politics. We're just there to listen and learn."

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