Breaking News: Commissioners’ Comp Plan Decision to Fail

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Breaking News: Commissioners’ Comp Plan Decision to Fail

 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. 

File Photo

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  This is precisely the critical flaw in the current out-of-date comprehensive plan.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.


By |2011-12-22T10:36:33+00:00May 13th, 2010|blog, Land Use|28 Comments


  1. Guch May 13, 2010 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Doesn’t seem like much of a “plan” for land use once they remove all the specifics. What a wasted opportunity, not to mention the endless headaches that could have been avoided if our elected officials had the balls to to what they were elected to do. I’d appreciate a decision one way or another even if I didn’t agree with it.

    Unless their ultimate goal was just to have a lot of meetings. . .

  2. Randy Myers May 13, 2010 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    Development is going to happen in Kootenai Co. Too bad the Commissioners (except Tondee) are ignoring what the people have CLEARLY worked hard to plan. High density only takes away what makes Kootenai Co attractive.

  3. Carol May 13, 2010 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Terry, thanks for keeping us up to date. Emails to friends and citizens to get out and vote our opinion of this travesty.

  4. Disgusted in KCounty May 14, 2010 at 6:51 am - Reply

    This is the final act of cowardice for these two. Currie can not make a decision on anything especially heading into an election. He is frozen with fear of being voted out. Piazza is a sheep as well.

    How elected officials who are supposed to be operating within the values of a representative government can trash the voice of the people in favor of the high-pressure lobbying that the realtors and developers have brought against the people’s comp plan is disgusting. I mean, make you want to puke disgusting.

    I personally made my voice voice heard at public forums regarding the comp plan and now my voice means squat to these two commissioners. The only voice they hear is their survival voice as they recoil in fear of the big boys with the wallets.

    Not only will I not vote for these two I am now going to very vocally and actively do all I can to see them unseated. Let them go to work for the realtor/developers they so favor.

  5. Tom Torgerson May 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    This is actually a wonderful and BRAVE decision for these two to make. Terry…you and I don’t always agree but the state law is VERY specific and NO other county has density restrictions in their comp plan in Idaho. It is illegal by statute.

    Don’t overplay the decision…the county has $300k or so set aside for an outside, non-connected professional team to write the zoning ordinance. We all will have our say then…and…it will be drafted by people who have done this time and time again.

    In all honesty…its a risky venture for “both sides” as we have no idea what will be the decision of the drafters…but…at least it will be a legal document that won’t be challenged. Have a great, sunny weekend in this gorgeous place we are lucky enough to reside! TT

  6. Randy Myers May 14, 2010 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    Tom T calls it “a wonderful and BRAVE decision.” Since when is ignoring what the constituency wants such a stellar move ? How about using that 300K to help with jail overcrowding…speaking of density. When we leave it to “non-connected outsiders” how does that help the LOCAL community get what it wants ? Trust me, higher density development is what has ruined (at least aspects of) other paradise locales ( i.e. Lake Tahoe, Honolulu). Leaving “drafters” to moderate important local decisions just doesn’t seem the way to go to me Tom.

  7. Terry Harris May 15, 2010 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Tom, more on this later, but you’re factually wrong when you say: “the state law is VERY specific and NO other county has density restrictions in their comp plan in Idaho. It is illegal by statute.”

    Quite a few Idaho counties have density ranges in their adopted / current comprehensive plans. Including similarly situated Teton County, and nearby Boundary and Bonner Counties.

    In fact, state law is designed to allow Counties to regulate land use themselves as they see fit. We have an analysis on KEA’s website, and the County’s legal analysis agrees with ours that the comp plan densities would clearly be upheld in a legal challenge.

  8. Tom Torgerson May 15, 2010 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Thanks, Terry..I will certainly check out the other plans but I looked over our two neighbors to the north and didn’t see those. My apologies in advance if I am wrong.

    I still don’t think removing the densities is an issue…in all seriousness, we could find the future adopted zoning ordinance is even more restrictive than the plan’s prior densities.

    Have a good weekend!

    • jeffrey May 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      Tom, you folded up like a cheap suit!

      If you represent the best and the brightest from the development forces, no wonder the local rural families invested so much time in pushing for an end to developments like the one you were involved with off the Farragut Road that proved to be a mile off the market demand for small rural lots. We are all tired of people like you thinking the last cycle is going to be repeated anytime soon–the best way to maintain the lifestyle of this region is to decrease crappy unneeded developments like the Belmont project and actually reduce the level of potential develop able lots==that will increase not only the quality of life of those of us here, but reduce demands on the County’s budget and ultimately increase the value of parcels by reducing potential supply.

      I know a lot of local real estate agents, developers, builders etc. saw the greatest paycheck in their lives in the last cycle. Hopefully you “salted” some of it away?

      I have owned land in the County since 52, this last cycle was an aberration tied into national forces, the current inventory of homes for sale over $400k (which I assume you are aware of) is a very painful reminder that the last cycle will not be repeated in your lifetime.

      Before you come in and post comments that Terry blows up instantly, realize that the people who support Terry and KEA are far from the Town Idiot(s),


      Piazza and Currie are moronic, having watched them for hundreds of hours in the last 3 years, I am embarrassed that they represent this county with their inept leadership!

      Perhaps you need to spend a little more time participating in the process and extending an open mind to the other 90% of the County population who are not in the RE arena–most of the development negative impacts in this county are passed off on the county citizens while the developer/re agent/builder etc. make of with the gold, that is a function of the true indirect costs of development–higher density, clean air, traffic increases, clean water, etc, etc. not being accounted for in our society–perhaps as an accountant CPA type you can comprehend that? Or maybe your own self interest and greed blinds you to the reality that protecting what is already here in North Idaho is way more important to almost every citizen here than you getting a SUV.

      If every citizen in this county is fortunate, they will get Dan Green and Chris Fillios as new county commissioners in Kootenai County. They are both good businessmen and have lived here long enough to blend their local knowledge with knowledge they have gathered during their time spent in other places.

      This county has the worst land use regulations in the region, it isnt helping either side of the development arena, yet you and your ilk always want a bigger hole to drive your truck through the regulations. Those days, thankfully are over in the County. The majority of the citizens realize that real estate development does not create sustainable jobs, rather it provides enough to buy a truck, but not enough to pay for it!

      Rich needs to retire and Currie should move on to a new career where he is not over matched intellectually with the concepts necessary to run Kootenai County, he is a true good ole boy who needs to move on.


      • Dawn Wiksten May 19, 2010 at 8:50 am - Reply


        Good calll. I sptopped long ago going ot the “Public Meetings” when Bella Ridge was allowed to go through. And to be honest, Bob Pearson did a fine job as developments go, but the people said, “NO WAY!”, and the commissioners laughed at us. Not one commissioner heard what we were saying. There is NOT enough water to go around! But, that is only ONE part of the puzzle. And to over burden the enviroment will come back to haunt each one of them one day. When the water faucet they turn on to wash the, dirt off their hands has nothing left to give. The proof will be all over their hands…and unfortunately everyone and everything will pay. But I doubt they will live long enough to see it. Maybe we can elect officials under the age of 16 instead next time, to be certain they really care what is happening in their back yard in the years to come.

        Good Luck with the battle, I wish I could join in.

  9. […] builders, and business interests. Parroting talking points we’ve been hearing all along, a commenter to our recent posting about the Commissioners’ misguided decision to remove density designations from the current […]

  10. Local Athol May 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    Well, If I thought there were sound reasons NOT to limit density in some areas and allow it in others,
    I would support Currie and Piazza..
    I believe they have over all made sound decisions up to now.. But this is a disappointment.
    It seems they’ve given in to pressure from developers as they are up for reelection.
    The applause from Torgerson tends to confirm it.

    Let’s see how Tondee plays it when it’s his turn.
    Development density is a complex issue. the US EPA supports higher densities, it is said to protect natural resources.
    Developers want to develop higher density, because they get more $ per developed acre .. So, there’s an odd alliance.
    Then add to it the staunch locals against development of the county rural environment, go stir in the fact that many staunch locals rely on developement for their earnings…quite noodle cooker.

  11. Tom Torgerson May 16, 2010 at 2:47 am - Reply

    Hey Jeffrey…whoever you are…why don’t you call me and have a meeting with me. I don’t appreciate your insults and nor do I agree with your position…and I think it is laughable you make your claims yet hide your identity… me.. 640-8086 that is my cell.

    And don’t ever again tell me about my greed…for there is none. That only makes me think less of you as you obviously don’t know anything about me…and frankly…it belittles you evern more than you hiding behind this blog with your name hidden.

    I have worked my ass off for what I have earned and risked everything. I will not post here again as you are a simple man with no courage to show your face and be a man. Case closed with you. You have my number. Man up and meet with me…or never insult me again.

    By the way…were you born here…like I was? Just curious…..

  12. Tom Torgerson May 16, 2010 at 2:52 am - Reply

    Hey Terry…Jeffrey is why your KEA is not successful when they have good points…because some of your members make personal attacks like his…and not make pointed environmental concerns that we all agree should be taken into consideration. Shotgun approaches fail. Work it with a sniper rifle and get support from people like me and many in the real estate world. You may be surprised how many support these goals.

    I won’t post again on your blog as I am not in to personal attacks.

  13. Terry Harris May 16, 2010 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Tom and Jeffrey: I apologize for not midnight-monitoring the blog comments (don’t you guys have things to do on a Saturday night?).

    However, neither of you were COMPELETELY out of line, so in the spirit of open and robust debate, I figure allowing some rough-and-tumble talk on the blog is better than people complaining about my censorship. On the other hand, I’m definitely all in favor of keeping the debate less personal — the facts and law will back us up.

  14. Disgusted in KCounty May 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Instant credibility dump.

    Not exactly unaffected professionally by defeating zoning densities in the comp plan.

  15. Tom Torgerson May 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Hey! Thanks for the plug, Digusted in Kootenai County…whomever you may be!

    I appreciate it!

    • Randy Myers May 17, 2010 at 6:45 pm - Reply

      I think Disgusted was making the point your credibility on this issue is compromised due to your real estate interests Tom. Speaking of which, I guess you decided to change your mind and post again ehh ?? Nothing wrong with changing your mind. Kinda like Currie and Piazza did when they decided to NOT act on behalf of the electorate. You mentioned a 300K set aside for planning. How about that being used for jail overcrowding? You know “jail overcrowding”…the reason the Commissioners tried to ram a more than 50 million jail expansion down the throats of the taxpayers.

  16. Tom Torgerson May 17, 2010 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Randy…I respect you using your name…I think I like you! However…this isn’t about the jail or any other topic last time I checked.

    This is about following State Code…pure and simple…with regard to the Comp Plan.

    You are free to take your battle up on the jail with whom you choose.

    My main real estate interests are keeping this place beautiful, protected environmentally and economically viable…all while respecting private property rights.

    I may be right of center fiscally, but I am left of center environmentally. You don’t know me…call me if you want to have a chat. You may be surprised to find that when the City of CDA proposed the Hillside Ordinance that I fought against my own organiztion while I was president of our association to get it passed…and even wanted them to add light pollution (verticallyl upward) as a constraint. AND…I might add…the Realtors ended up endorsing what was a VERY contested ordinance…and we all won.

    Call me, Randy…you might be surprised. 640-8086. Who else posts their cell in a blog? Certainly not people like Disgusted who are too scared to even reveal their names….

    I appreciate your comments. Thanks for chiming in.

  17. Terry Harris May 18, 2010 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Tom: I appreciate your sticking it out here. But, to the extent that this is about “following State Code” I guess I’d appreciate more factual or legal information than bald assertion. I understand the argument that realtors and the business community have been making, but there’s nothing in the “State Code” that will back it up.

    For what it’s worth, your side has won the misinformation battle and have convinced the Commissioners to be utterly non-specific. I suspect, though, that your side will ultimately lose the war. Either sprawl covers the county ruining what makes this place great, or this set of Commissioners (or new ones) fix the problem before it’s too late.

  18. […] to remedy a fundamental flaw in their version of the plan. Recall that the Commissioners removed guidance for development densities at a deliberation meeting in May, essentially stripping the plan of much of its meaning. Revision of […]

  19. Comp Plan Redux | KEA Blog October 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    […] of the prairie municipalities (and shared by KEA), but didn’t do a great job of it, and (3) they took all the development densities out of the plan, which is a huge and unnecessary mistake. The density decisions can be made in the zoning code […]

  20. […] of the comments from citizens concentrated on the need to restore explicit development densities to the plan. Many commenters suggested that without the numeric densities, the plan is an insufficient guide for […]

  21. […] wholesale deletions of mostly-extraneous text. Commissioners Currie and Piazza refused, however, to restore development densities into the plan – still a fatal […]

  22. Top 10 for 2010 « KEA Blog December 31, 2010 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    […] 2. Breaking News: Commissioners’ Comp Plan Decision to Fail […]

  23. […] the County Commissioners avoided putting development densities in the comprehensive plan, clearly that will be a point of contention as the regulations get written. But what else? Here is […]

  24. […] be easy. The candidates were all candid that tough decisions left undone in the comprehensive plan (e.g. development densities) will need to be revisited and resolved sooner rather than later by the County Commissioners. All of […]

  25. […] code-writing is the culmination of a lengthy and sometimes-painful process of revamping the County’s approach to land use. Starting with “meetings in a box” sessions, […]

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