County posts new land use plan - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

County posts new land use plan

A technical committee is now reviewing draft

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Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County has posted the first complete draft of its new land use code online, following a year-and-a-half-long process that had some property owners wary that their rights were threatened.

The draft Unified Land Use Code aims for simpler development standards, said Todd Messenger with Kendig Keast Collaborative, the consulting firm that has helped the county write the document.

It should also allow faster decisions and better notice to neighbors on proposed projects, he said.

"We hope to make things easier," Messenger said. "The existing codes we think are badly broken."

The new code is intended to streamline and update land use and development ordinances that contractors and property owners have complained are convoluted. The code will also implement the new Comprehensive Plan, a guiding document about future development in the county.

The best benefit, said Scott Clark, director of county Community Development, is that the ULUC will replace the current 30 ordinances related to land use regulation.

"The regulations are all encompassed in one document (in the ULUC), instead of being individual ordinances that don't work together because they're written separately," Clark said. "I think that's going to be very helpful to everyone in trying to work through land use issues."

The draft, viewable at, is currently being reviewed by a technical committee.

Another draft will be completed after the review, and posted for a 60-day comment period. That will be followed by: A Planning Commissioner hearing on the document, the publishing of a third revised draft, another 60-day public comment period, then a final hearing by the county commissioners.

"I think really a lot of people are just taking time to review it," said Clark of whether many have commented so far. "We encourage people to stay involved and to review it."

Hundreds attended public meetings about the drafting of the document last year, many concerned that the land use regulations were depriving them of their property rights. The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee issued a resolution opposed to the document.

Members of the central committee could not be reached on Wednesday about the draft.

Messenger lauded that details in the ULUC draft would make development easier.

The draft allows county staff to approve projects that currently have to go through a public hearing, he said.

"The rules are clear enough, the public hearing wouldn't be necessary," Messenger said.

Under the draft, projects that do go to hearing would be decided by the hearing examiner, instead of the commissioners.

Currently, the examiner holds a hearing and makes a recommendation to the commissioners, who hold a second hearing and make a decision.

"The extra step of a month or so of waiting for the county commissioners to take it up is avoided," Messenger said of the draft proposal.

Applicants could still appeal to the commissioners, he added.

The draft code would also set new standards for where some projects can be approved.

For example, current ordinances allow a race track to be approved as a special use in a rural zone.

Under the draft ULUC, Messenger said, a race track could only be approved in a commercial or industrial zone.

"You wouldn't be building race tracks all over the county," he said. "If your property is good property for a race track and not zoned commercial, then you could include a rezone as part of the application process."

The point is to "make more sense about what goes where," he said.

The draft code also expands the number of neighbors to be given notice of proposed projects. The ULUC draft calls for noticing at least 20 parcels around the project site, compared to the current standard of neighbors only within 300 feet.

"In rural areas, 300 feet of notice doesn't get you past the abutting property," Messenger said, pointing out that many neighbors are left uninformed.

The draft also includes a "sliding scale of density and open space," Messenger said. New districts called Established Neighborhoods would protect existing homes from nonconformity status.

Messenger noted that the commissioners will have the final word on what the ULUC contains.

"We commend the county for undertaking this monumental effort, and thank all the participants for keeping up along the way," Messenger said.

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  • CDGE posted at 9:29 am on Thu, Jan 24, 2013.

    CDGE Posts: 23

    To say “some" property owners are "wary" is putting it mildly. In reality, hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of property owners are extremely angry and frustrated and awake to the fact that the proposed ULUC is a tool being used to control growth, populations, education, social equity and extreme environmentalism. It involves a chosen few discussing and dictating what OTHER people can do with their personal property. Mr Messenger has claimed over and over that this tool helps people understand what being a good neighbor means. I believe we already have measures in place to address infractions of the good neighbor code.

    To say "the code is simpler" really means that property owners are more CONTROLLED in their use of private property.

    I’d like to venture that while the current ordinances may be broken, their implementation was based on federal law in the 70’s during the government’s initial advances into control of private land use and usurping rights of property owners. So rather than repealing what did not work for the land owners, we are suffocating the property owners with the ULUC and advancing even farther into the realm of soft fascism. “You own your property, but we will tell you what you are allowed to do with it because we know better and we care more.”

    Todd Messenger admits that the ULUC draft is a bigger document than we currently have. He doesn’t say by how many pages, but we know it’s close to 300 pages larger, not to mention the pictures he's added that are worth "1000 words." Having a gigantic recipe book is fine, according to Mr Messenger, if the meatloaf recipe is really good.

    Mr. Clark encourages review of the technical behemoth that gives him, the director, a LOT of power. It also removes responsibility from the county commissioners because apparently they don’t want to be bothered by administering over a hearing. However, neither the Director, nor the commissioners, are really interested in the average citizen comments, because they are determined to see this through and have so much time and money invested. They also no longer have an election to worry about.

    We, the privileged citizens and property owners of Kootenai County, having paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the new regulations and commissioner salaries, would still be allowed to appeal to the commissioners. Why this would be necessary, I don’t know, as we have been promised by the commissioners and Messenger that the code is all about allowing everyone to get what they want, or in Messenger’s words, “...finding as many pathways to ‘YES’ as we can...”

    I could go on, and many people may take this personally as an attack, as they have spent months and years participating in this and the Comp Plan process. But my questions to all of you, and the property owners of Kootenai County, are these: If the ULUC is so wonderful and gracious and permitting, why is it better than a minimalist approach to laws and regs where you can do what you'd like unless you harm someone/thing? Why do we need permission to do everything? When the major majority of property owners are good stewards, respectful, law abiding citizens, why are we being SHACKLED with permission? If the code allows all we could possibly want, yet requires permission for something not created or invented yet, is that not the same as denying the undiscovered potential of Kootenai County?

    The Comp Plan needs to be revised or state law should not 'require' application of it. Let's get busy Kootenai county. This can be a wonderful place to live.

    Please consider joining email list for viable, Constitutional options to the proposed ULUC.

  • Tim Herzog posted at 6:26 am on Thu, Jan 24, 2013.

    Tim Herzog Posts: 414

    I have attended many of these meetings on the proposed ULUC and many things in it make great sense. But, I am critical of understanding the complexity and wordiness of the 500+ pages of this first draft copy. Todd Messenger is extremely knowledgeable but just like most attorneys, the language is not meant for the average read. Probably one of the reasons for the size of this draft is to try to conform to the Comprehensive Plan that is also wordy and complex. The drafters of our Comprehensive plan only took 6 years from start to finish for final approval and only after about 5 or so drafts. Dan Green, our current Commissioner, was the chair of that committee and still proud of getting it passed in such short time (pun intended).

    Now we are dealing with the land use code and ordinances that will add at least another 2 years to the finality and conclusion of the Comprehensive Plan and ordinances. Eight years to get this done...amazing! When all is said and done, it will be time to start over!

    Now let's talk about the costs. I don't remember actual costs for the Comp Plan with its many volunteers because it was so long ago, but I thought we had some input from paid consultants also back then.

    This ULUC project is costing us around 400K of taxpayers’ money. Add the fact that once approved, everyone in the planning department will need to be re-educated on how to implement it which I believe we are paying the consultants to also do.

    Our old plan was definitely in need of revision and the old comp plan was outdated by many years, but this combination of our new Comprehensive Plan and the ULUC draft adds up to over 800 pages of reading material. Hardly an evening’s read!

    Maybe I am just a critic of overzealous government and regulations, but I believe we missed an opportunity here to subscribe to the “KISS’ formula. Ultimately I could be proven wrong when “more is less” turns out to be best but only time will tell.

    Tim Herzog
    Former Candidate for District 1,
    County Commissioner, 2008 & 2012

  • bob-athol posted at 6:13 am on Thu, Jan 24, 2013.

    bob-athol Posts: 192

    If the goal of the Cda Press was to present one side of this issue and to provide the highly paid consultant a public forum to execute a ra-ra cheer about his work, ...... then the Press has accomplished its goal.

    However, I believe property owners are greatly dis-serviced by this kind of reporting. Should the censor/moderator allow my this comment thru, please know I am truly disappointed in the Cda Press

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