Property owners, beware

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Your property rights are under attack. All Kootenai County landowners will be affected.

In 1975 the Idaho Legislature passed into law Title 67 Chapter 65 Local Land Use Planning Act with the purpose of protecting property rights and the environment while promoting development. Idaho code (I.C. 67-6508) was revised in 1995 to require that planners “ensure that land use policies, restrictions, conditions and fees do not violate private property rights, adversely impact property values or create unnecessary technical limitations on the use of property.” The County Planners routinely ignore this requirement.

It is the stated policy of the Kootenai County Community Development Department that ALL land uses are forbidden unless specifically allowed in the code. If it isn’t on the “Permitted” list it is forbidden and you can be charged with a crime and fined. Their attitude is, “We have what it takes to take what you have!”

Idaho law requires that the municipality generate a “Comprehensive Plan” that guides the revision of the land use code. The Comprehensive Plan must be revised every 20 years. The county hired the consulting firm of Kezzia-Watkins to do the preliminary study on revising Comprehensive Plan. Kezzia-Watkins developed a “Meeting in a Box” format for public review. It contained only seven questions. They were:

1. What two things do you value most about life in Kootenai County?

2. Thinking ahead 10 years, what 2 words or phrases would you use to describe the ideal Kootenai County? Please be specific.

3. Please list the 5 most important elements your group agrees defines the rural lifestyle in Kootenai County.

4. Please list 5 concise words or phrases that your group agrees define “responsible” or “managed” or “controlled” growth.

5. Please list 4 words or phrases that describe how you would define quality of life as it relates to the Comprehensive Plan.

6. Are there any special places or areas in the county that you believe deserve special attention as the Comprehensive Plan is updated?

7. Please list the most important issues to you when it comes to:

  A. Infrastructure in the county (e.g. transportation systems, drainage facilities, utilities)

  B. Implementation of the Comprehensive Plan Update

  C. Future Land Use

Notice that the importance of economic prosperity or jobs or property rights is not even considered.

Based on these seven loaded questions, a Comprehensive Plan was developed that contained the directive to “Develop Regulations” 197 times.

Kezzia-Watkins also discovered that Kootenai County residents had the lowest opinion of their county government than any other county or municipality in their considerable experience. This low opinion of Kootenai County government was the result of an imperial “because I said so” attitude of the managers, department heads and commissioners and not the attitudes or performance of the county employees. The managers, department heads and commissioners have placed the blame for the low rating on the county ordinances rather than on their own attitudes and culture. They want the new code to give themselves more power, more control over your property.

Kootenai County has a unique character and natural beauty that the citizens wish to preserve. It is the responsibility of the county commissioners to plan FOR the future, not plan THE future.

Over the years the county zoning ordinances have become increasingly more restrictive and complex. The result is that existing properties have been made “non-conforming” to the new regulations, reducing property rights and depressing economic development. The “cure” proposed for this over-regulation is yet more regulation.

The county commissioners decided that Kootenai County does not have the local capability to plan for our own future or write our own land use codes. They have hired a planning firm (Kendig Keast Collaborative) who has assigned one of their Denver Colorado office employees, Todd Messenger, to write our new Unified Land Use Code (ULUC).

Mr. Messenger is using a system that was originally formulated in the mid-1970s and his own professional judgment to write land use code that will shape the future development of Kootenai County. Mr. Messenger has never written the Unified Land Use Code for a county before.

Mr. Messenger considers Kootenai County to be “poorly planned” and brings a pre-determined toolkit for shaping future development to conform to an aesthetic that has been determined by professional planners like him. We can do whatever we want only if it fits within the detailed limits placed upon us by his comprehensive code. Setbacks, building heights, open space, public access, plant types and densities, materials, etc., are all regulated in detail by code that will be interpreted by county employees. These extensive and detailed land use regulations will, over time, ensure that Kootenai County evolves to look like every other properly planned community, like Riverstone. Mr. Messenger will do for Kootenai County what Walmart has done for retail stores.

The commissioners have convened numerous “Advisory Committees” that represent special interests (Developers, Relators, Cities, Environmentalist groups, etc.) but there is NO representation for the average landowner.

All zoning districts will be reworked so all property owners WILL be affected by the new zoning. You will have 28 days from the time the new code is adopted to appeal the new restrictions placed on your land. After the 28 days there is NO legal recourse to address the loss of your property rights.

The best and only way to prevent the further confiscation or our property rights is to stand up NOW and make your voice heard. The commissioners want “consensus,” so we need to tell them what we want. It is the proper role of government to protect your rights, NOT to confiscate them.

Attend the public workshop Tuesday, June 26, 5:45 p.m. at the Cd’A Library Community Room.

What needs to happen:

• Revise the administrative portion of the code to make procedures simple and easy; to standardize definitions; to protect property rights and to eliminate excessive burdens on the land owners.

• Provide a proper review of the proposed code by a committee of land owners to ensure the legally mandated property rights protections are observed.

• Revise the county policy of all land uses being forbidden unless specifically allowed to all uses being allowed unless specifically prohibited. Enact a procedure for adding uses to the prohibited lists.

• Repeal or revise zoning restrictions that caused properties to become non-conforming through no fault of their own.

• Reject proposed code that drives development to an “aesthetic” goal. Code should plan for future development. The code should not plan the development itself.

• Accept and acknowledge that land use code should enable development and prosperity, and to ensure the necessary infrastructure is put in place to enable future development.

Brent Regan is a Kootenai County-based inventor, problem solver and president of Regan Designs, a product design and prototyping company.

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