From the KEA Board of Directors:

If you value the life you enjoy in the county, we urge you to support the adoption of the county’s Unified Land Use Code.  The code will implement the newly adopted comprehensive plan and replace current codes that are decades old.

Right now the new code is being assaulted by people claiming their private property rights will be taken away.  This is a highly organized effort designed to weaken or scrap the code writing process  It aims to do away with planning and zoning and let people do whatever they want on their land without regard for its costs and impacts.

A similar effort mounted in the 1990s by other parties successfully scuttled the adoption of code ordinances that would have implemented the 1994 comprehensive plan.  As a result, the 1994 plan was never applied and development went unchecked.

Our observations on the Unified Land Use Code follow.

  • The county-wide survey conducted by research firm Kezziah Watkins in 2006 found county residents strongly supported preserving natural areas and the environment, maintaining rural life styles and open space, and retaining a sense of community and a small town feel.  In the words of Kezziah Watkins’ report, “They [Citizens] expect the County to find a way to deal with growth that makes growth conform to the character of this community rather than the other way around.”
  • Private property rights are important in maintaining a balance between individual liberty and state control, but they are not absolute. Property owners have responsibilities to not damage or devalue neighboring properties, not needlessly increase public costs to provide them with services, and not damage the environment.
  • The most cost effective and sensible immediate and long range approach to planning is to direct growth near cities where services and infrastructure already exists or can be easily provided.  The comprehensive plan envisions this and the land use code should call for it.
  • Natural resources need to be protected with adequate buffers and/or clearly defined and enforceable engineering standards. This is especially important for water quality impacts from existing and proposed development near lakes and rivers and above the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.
  • Adjacent land use zones need to be distinctly different in density so that development does not easily become sprawl. Rural zones should retain rural densities. Development that invades adjacent zones needs to make sense financially and have minimal impacts.  This results in gradual, orderly growth that is consciously approved, welcomes full public participation, and protects the environment.
  • The proposed new zones establish land use performance standards that maintain their character.  For instance, in the Working Lands zone uses related to resource based economies are allowed, while uses that compromise it are not.
  • The ULUC will streamline the development process by distinguishing between simple and complex proposals.  Simple proposals will be expedited while complex projects will be carefully scrutinized.
  • The proposed ULUC will encourage public involvement in land use decisions and treat all parties fairly.  This has not happened in the past.
  • The Unified Land Use Code will provide ordinary citizens, businesses, developers and the County with clear guidelines to follow, protect property rights, define property responsibilities, stabilize communities, and safeguard the environment.

Without the adoption of a responsible and forward looking Unified Land Use Code the new comprehensive plan will have no force.  We are now operating with a 2010 comprehensive plan enforced by land use codes dating back to the 1970s.  

Dont let a small vocal group of people weaken or overturn this code writing effort.  Write your county commissioners in support of the ULUC. Also, consider sending  your comments to the local papers.

Commissioner Jai Nelson
Commissoner Dan Green
Commissioner Todd Tondee