GOP asks commissioners for change

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COEUR d'ALENE - Following emphatic discussion on Tuesday evening, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee approved a resolution decrying the county's drafting of new development ordinances and calling on the commissioners for change.

The resolution, which passed 42 to 2, states that the consultant helping write the Unified Land Use Code is proposing regulations that will "violate Idaho Code and affect property rights."

To be passed on to the county commissioners, the document calls on the officials to follow state law and avoid unnecessary restrictions on property use. It also requests the commissioners give notice to every affected property owner, and provide regional public hearings for review of the code and a chance to propose alternatives.

"If this is being proposed, all we want to do is say 'county commissioners, you must follow the law,'" said Leah Southwell, a member of the public who urged the KCRCC to pass the resolution at the meeting.

Many at Tuesday's meeting at the county administration building complained that the county has poorly advertised the rewrite and related meetings, offering few opportunities to participate.

"You can go into the website and participate on a line-by-line basis," said KCRCC member Courtenay Ellison, speaking of www.kccode.com, where the draft is posted. "But as far as objections, there's no opportunity."

Some hoped to see the county mail out notices about the code, on top of holding hearings.

Barry McHugh, KCRCC member and county prosecutor, voted against the resolution.

The document might be demanding what is already planned, McHugh said, as he believes the county intends to hold public hearings on the land use code.

He further questioned the resolution's accusation that the ULUC would violate state code.

"None of the information I've been provided with has indicated when that would happen or why that would happen," McHugh said.

Others felt differently.

Brent Regan, a member of the public at the meeting, said the county's consultant, Kendig Keast Collaborative, might not follow property rights protection laws adopted in 1995.

"If they want to choose to ignore it, fine, and if they want to go to court and lose, fine. But we're the citizens," Regan said, urging the public to take a stand. "We're Republicans. It's a republic. We believe in laws."

Regional hearings are necessary, Regan added, because the draft is constantly updated online.

"I don't want to pass it to find out what's in it," he said.

Southwell added that the ULUC could violate state law by changing zoning so properties can't be subdivided, which she identified as government "taking" of individuals' properties.

"That is not protecting our rights," she said.

KCRCC member Sharon Culbreth objected to an out-of-state consultant aiding in the rewrite.

"Every city, every state has a different personality. How can a man from Florida and Colorado come here and tell us how to run our place?" Culbreth said, referring to KKC employee Todd Messenger. "Mr. Messenger likes rules and regulations. Kind of like a dictator and someone called Obama."

The ULUC is being written to implement the county Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2010, which stands as a development guide for the county. The new code will also update old ordinances.

Opposition to the resolution also came in a proxy vote from KCRCC member and former county Commissioner Rick Currie, who was absent from the meeting.

In a letter to the KCRCC, Currie said that when he and other commissioners were drafting the Comprehensive Plan, responses to invitations of public participation was "spotty at best."

"To come in at the last moment does not play well," he wrote.

The resolution could send a message of how divided the Republican party is, Currie added.

He also cautioned against moving forward without all the information.

"You do need to hear from all sides," he wrote.

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