Officials prepare for lawsuit

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COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County Commissioners met behind closed doors Monday to discuss what they consider to be imminent litigation between the county and its land use consultant, Kendig Keast Collaborative.

Commissioners went into executive session with Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Pat Braden to discuss potential legal issues, but would not confirm who was expected to file a lawsuit.

Under Idaho's Open Meeting Law, commissioners cited section 67-2345(1)(f) which allows the commissioners to meet in private specifically:

"To communicate with legal counsel for the public agency to discuss the legal ramifications of and legal options for pending litigation, or controversies not yet being litigated but imminently likely to be litigated..." Commissioner Todd Tondee was able to confirm that neither party has filed suit yet, but a lawsuit is likely to arise concerning the proposed Unified Land Use Code, which Kendig Keast was hired to develop.

The controversial ULUC was sent back to the consultant earlier this summer to be revised with more community input. That decision was made after the county released the draft proposal for a public hearing process.

The first hearing drew a crowd of opponents that was so large, it forced the fire department to shut down the meeting. Commissioners decided at that point to have the consultant develop a proposal - or prospectus - that outlines what it would take to revise the code to incorporate more public input into the code.

In August, Kendig Keast sent the county a contract extension that included the prospectus at a cost of $5,400, and if that was deemed acceptable, another $100,000 worth of work that would need to be done.

The commissioners initially approved that proposal. Janet Robnett, a land use attorney who sat on the planning commission's technical review committee, attended the August meeting and expressed her frustration when commissioners approved the contract extension.

Robnett pointed out that the planning commission was at a standstill, and the majority of the commission wanted to throw the whole thing out and start over.

Bob Bingham, of the Northwest Property Owners Alliance, also attended the meeting to express his concerns.

"I am disappointed that the BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) approved an addendum to the contract to pay them more money to do something they didn't do in the first contract," he said, adding if the commissioners read the original contract they would find that the amendment spells out almost verbatim what was supposed to be accomplished in the first contract.

"Look at the first contract," he said, at that meeting. "You'll read the same exact words."

Commissioners came back a week later to rescind the contract extension and decided to send a contract back to the consultant asking only for the $5,400 prospectus.

"We haven't got anything back on that yet," Tondee said on Monday. "I am kind of expecting the prospectus this week, although I think he has until the end of the month."

Tondee, who is acting as interim director of Community Development until that position is filled, said the county has an agreement with Kendig Keast for the prospectus.

"It's my understanding that nothing has changed," Tondee said.

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