One more thing on the unenlightened ULUC opposition. Opponents need to recognize that being against the new code has the same effect as being for the old one. Until a new code is passed, the old one is still in effect. The purported “property rights” issues in the ULUC already exist — in the current code. But much worse.
The reality is that Idaho state law requires the county to have land use laws, and the county does indeed have land use laws on the books. The problem is that the laws are patchwork of overlapping codes, the central core of which dates back to the 1970s. Even with band-aid fixes over the years, the current code can be vague, contradictory, inefficient, impossible to navigate, and can have huge gaping holes. Both developers and neighborhood residents have had enormous frustration working with the current code and the accompanying procedures. As a result, county staff and the County Commissioners are faced with impossible decision-making choices. When the code isn’t clear, the decisions are necessarily subjective and political. A lot of land use decisions end up in a courtroom, left to a judge to figure it all out.
The vast majority of the ULUC — the Unified Land Use Code — is essentially a neutral re-write of already existing law. Where the current codes provide requirements for property subdivision, the ULUC also provides for subdivision. Where the current county codes require wildfire protection in some circumstances, so does the ULUC. Where the current codes mention landscaping provisions in at least 17 different sections, the ULUC will re-compile them in one place.
The ULUC does, however, take a more flexible and streamlined approach. Rather than create problematic “non-conforming” properties like the old code, the ULUC takes an innovative “neighborhood conservation district” approach. Rather than redundant and time-consuming public hearings under the old code, the ULUC will reconfigure the public hearing processes (pdf) for both expediency and fairness.
Most importantly, the ULUC will minimize the difficult, unpredictable, subjective and political decision-making under the old code. The ULUC promises clearer guidance and more efficient processes for staff, quicker and more reliable decisions and for applicants, and fairer procedures for everyone. Indeed, the ULUC puts the current code out of our misery. Opponents of the ULUC have nothing positive to offer.