In their long slow failure of deliberating the draft Comprehensive Plan, the County Commissioners today voted 2-1 in favor of throwing out thousands of hours of hard work by hundreds of citizens in developing a new comp plan that actually meant something. 

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Over Commissioner Tondee’s strong objection, Commissioners Currie and Piazza voted to remove specific development density ranges for all land use designations in the Plan. In essence, the two Commissioners declined to describe in real and useful terms what levels of development would be appropriate in any area of the county.

 The density decision, of course, is the most important one to make in a comprehensive plan. Today’s deliberation was the last one scheduled before the primary election.

 Recall that KEA and others had advocated strongly for a less-dense rural area. Municipalities on the prairie had advocated for less density as well, so that their annexation and growth could proceed in an orderly non-leapfrog way.

 Now, without a numeric range of allowed densities, landowners, citizen groups, and future developers will need to depend on a narrative description to define appropriate development densities. Moreover, future Commissioners will face unending re-zoning battles and litigation as developers and citizens fight over what each land use category means. Sound familiar?  This is precisely the critical flaw in the current out-of-date comprehensive plan.

 Make no mistake, this is a failure of epic proportions.  Of all the ways to duck the political hot-potato density issue, the two commissioners picked the worst possible solution — choosing to enforce the status quo. And after all this time.