Commissioners tap Kendig Keast as consultants - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Commissioners tap Kendig Keast as consultants

Group will assist in rewriting laws for Comprehensive Plan

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Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County has a winner.

The county commissioners on Tuesday fingered a national consulting firm with decades of planning experience to assist in the two-year process of rewriting county laws to implement the new Comprehensive Plan.

Kendig Keast Collaborative, which has offices in Colorado, Texas, Illinois and California, was the favorite of the community panels that helped vet the applicants, said Commissioner Todd Tondee.

"This is a huge step forward for us," Tondee said after the commissioners voted 2-0 to confirm the choice.

"It's been a long time coming," agreed Commissioner Dan Green. "And we're not done yet."

Kendig Keast offered several details that set it apart from the other three final applicants, the commissioners said.

For one, Tondee said, it offered the ideal balance of involving county staff and the public in drafting new ordinances and regulations, which will affect how development is shaped and enforced across the county for decades to come.

Kendig also promised to thoroughly educate Building and Planning staff on new policies.

"It's going to be quite a lot of changes, and we'll need staff to implement them," Tondee said.

Green added that Kendig was the only firm that would provide interactive software spelling out what's allowed on parcels under new laws.

"Property owners will be able to access that from their homes," Green said.

Tondee said that Commissioner Jai Nelson, who was out of town on Tuesday, also supported the choice.

Four panels comprised of community members heard pitches from the final applicants last week and submitted score cards to the commissioners on their top picks.

Terry Harris of Kootenai Environmental Alliance, which was included among the panels, said all the applicants were very impressive.

"I think the commissioners deserve a lot of credit for bringing in some really high quality firms. This bodes well for that process," he said.

Harris noted Kendig Keast for its strong grasp of updating zoning codes in a short period, he said, as well as a focus on including the public in the process.

"They were pretty clear that that's going to be necessary, and we would certainly agree," Harris said.

Protecting shoreline and rural areas are where KEA would like to see the firm focus in the new laws, he added.

"Their firm is actually respected for that kind of work," Harris said.

Bret Keast, president of Kendig Keast, said he hadn't heard any official confirmation from the county on Tuesday afternoon.

His firm hopefully set itself apart because of its 30 years of writing codes in complex environments, Keast said.

"We've done over 100 codes across the country," he said.

Kootenai County, he added, will pose challenges in its sundry environments, spanning rural, agriculture and urban.

"Different regulations have to cater to different issues, and just involve the variety of people who represent all those different interests," he said.

He added that he has never before encountered an application process with community panels that lasted from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"It's usually just a single panel in the course of an hour," Keast said with a chuckle. "I applauded the county for their approach. We enjoyed meeting all the individuals, and there was a good representation of all the folks we'll encounter throughout the process."

The county will enter immediately into contract negotiations with the firm, Tondee said.

County staff hopes to start working on writing new development regulations with the firm within 30 to 60 days.

The county set aside $350,000 to contract a consulting firm a few years ago.

Nelson said on Monday that rewriting the laws is an enormous endeavor, and will surely be part of the current commissioners' legacies.

"The decision of picking a consultant is far reaching," she said.

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  • toughluck posted at 5:06 pm on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    toughluck Posts: 167

    I think that all these consultants do is reinvent the "development" wheel. Sure, Idaho has it's own slighlty modified version but for the most part, there are hundreds if not thousands of cities/counties that have done similar "smart growth" plans with ordinances etc. We should have just copied someone elsesand may be added a couple of specialized things that Kootenai might need. Or if we are not reinventing the wheel we should be able to sell our plans to other counties so that they would not have to spend the 300K plus.

  • tempter posted at 1:53 pm on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    tempter Posts: 186

    And Skeptic - I did read the whole article. The article said, "Tondee said that Commissioner Jai Nelson, who was out of town on Tuesday, also supported the choice." That's why Nelson didn't vote. She wasn't there for this so-called big project where the secret money was put away a couple of years ago!

    It doesn't pass the sniff test!!!!!!

    There should not have been a vote without all three commissioners present for the vote!

  • skeptic posted at 11:36 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    skeptic Posts: 56

    Terry is right on. We simply don't have the local expertise for a task as complex as this, requiring land use attorneys, and folks with advanced degrees in planning. The $350K pales when compared to the money spent by the County, and yet to be spent, on lawsuits from developers and neighborhood groups alike.

    And Tempter, if you read the entire article, you would have noticed Jai Nelson's photo on the continuing page. Interesting that Nelson failed to vote.

  • Terry at KEA posted at 11:14 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    Terry at KEA Posts: 33

    As someone who's tracked the progress on this, and who was involved in the interviews, I can say that this job is far beyond the capacity of county staff -- both in the time and expertise it will take to get the job done. To their credit, the previous set of Commissioners recognized this and set aside necessary funds. And to this set of Commissioners' credit, they are moving quickly to get on with it.

    This will be money well spent -- updating the horribly out-of-date codes will save citizens and developers alike the thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in negotiating -- and litigating -- in the current dysfunctional system. I have yet to speak with anyone who thinks the current codes are working.

    Finally, and FWIW, the Commissioners did consider finalists with local and regional firms involved. Ultimately, factors other than simply where the consultants were based were more important.

  • Randy Myers posted at 9:35 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    Randy Myers Posts: 1635

    I am thinking that an outside firm is being hired to do what county employees should be doing.

    @tempter.....I wouldn't worry about no coat and ties. Nelson was out of town...and your other concerns are valid.

  • tempter posted at 8:51 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    tempter Posts: 186


    The county set aside $350,000 to contract a consulting firm a few years ago.

    "Who" set aside this money and where did it come from? What other monies have been set aside by the county? This news is very upsetting to me since I smell a secret government agenda!

    My property value declined this year, yet my property taxes went up! Todd Tondee, Dan Green and Jai Nelson should be focused on that one instead of spending hidden tax monies that we are told we don't have.

    I resent our two male commissioners photographed without a coat and tie on. They represent the citizens of Kootenai County and are simply too laid back and casual to suit me! Start by looking professional and maybe it will rub off on the way you do county business for us! Why wasn't Jai Nelson in the photo?

    Why does the Coeur d Alene Press not do in depth reporting on stories such as this one? Many, many questions?

  • The Truth posted at 7:47 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    The Truth Posts: 2193

    So, Joe, you only want the politicians to spend their personal money on state projects. Gonna be real limited gov't then.

  • JoeIdaho posted at 7:26 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    The County is ignorant. The ONLY reason they sepnd money like this is because it's not THEIR mney it's just "tax money". If it were their own, this kind of thing would NEVER happen.

  • rollingthunder posted at 7:19 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    rollingthunder Posts: 356

    More tax money down the toilet

  • Tim Herzog posted at 7:10 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    Tim Herzog Posts: 373

    So sorry TB that your previous employers only paid you what you were worth. Even at $8 an hour, I think you were overpaid!

  • TakeBackTheUSA posted at 5:45 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    TakeBackTheUSA Posts: 765

    Hey Truth - these guys don't work for $8/hr, which is about all any employer in Idaho will pay. Idaho's short, short list of quality businesses is growing shorter by the day as they realize how little this state cares about education. But that's how the Politburo in Boise wants it since anything else would impact their bottom line.

  • crust123 posted at 5:30 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    crust123 Posts: 192

    no question that it is a valid project, just question the timing of spending that kind of money when budget pressures are at an all time high...

  • The Truth posted at 3:25 am on Wed, Mar 30, 2011.

    The Truth Posts: 2193

    Sure beats hiring a company in Idaho, I guess.

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