Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Rural residents push against proposed law"

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

Whitman board fields more ire from residents

Whitman County residents angry about a rural residential housing proposal and plans to buy sport utility vehicles confronted commissioners Greg Partch and Jerry Finch again Monday.

Colfax resident John Henry led the assault in place of Brenda Dillard, a woman who claimed two weeks ago to have collected 2,000 signatures on a petition opposing the housing law drafted by the county planning commission. Dillard was given 30 minutes on the commissioners’ agenda to talk about the proposal, but she was replaced by Henry because of illness.

The two commissioners were visibly exasperated after being peppered with questions about the proposed vehicle contract, an idea the board abandoned amid public outcry, and its March 27 decision to hire Spokane land use lawyer Brian McGinn to fix the rural residential zoning law so it will pass constitutional muster.

Some residents, including Henry and Dillard, have objected to the county paying $5,000 to have a lawyer revise a law they say people don’t want.

The laws are designed to allow limited housing construction in rural parts of the county while preserving land for farming. The residents who signed the petition said they believe the law is too restrictive and steps on private property rights by prohibiting certain kinds of landscaping, such as restricting house paint colors to “earth tones.”

Residents may not clearly understand what McGinn was hired to do, said Prosecutor Denis Tracy.

“I think there’s been some misconception this consultant is being hired to find a way to make it constitutional to dictate to someone what color their house can be,” Tracy said.

That’s not what McGinn has been asked to do, he said. The final version of the rural residential housing law is yet to be determined, and the public can tell commissioners what they think about it at any time.

“That’s what this is about — are these things legal, not how can we massage them to make them legal,” Partch said. “If it needs to go to referendum of the people, I’ll let it go there.”

Henry again raised the spectre of the SUV contract, saying he wanted some satisfaction. Finch told him it was a dead issue since he and Partch decided not to take the vehicles, which were to be for the two commissioners’ personal use. Commissioner Les Wigen, who did not want a vehicle from the start, sat silent throughout the proceeding.

“If you think I’m going to let you come in every week and harangue me about everything I do, you’re sadly mistaken,” Finch told Henry. “Now let’s get to some cogent points and move on.”
Why the commissioners want to hire PARD's former attorney is beyond me. Seems like a major conflict of interest.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

The citizens of Whitman County are clearly hungry for new development. We can't afford to be "picturesque" for the occasional tourist, who stays somewhere else, like Spokane or Seattle.

Other countries like Canada, Australia, Russia and China are driving down world wide wheat prices. Because wheat is not profitable, approximately a third of Whitman County wheat fields are now in non-productive CRP. Small farms are now consolidating into bigger ones to cut costs. It's putting a squeeze on farm suppliers, like my store. Instead of 100 farms needing a four-wheeler, 5 farms only need two. We are going through a drastic change in Whitman County. We can't wish it away, it is here right now.

Colfax is debating a 1000 acre annexation! It will be huge. Can Pullman and Whitman County possibly ignore what is at hand?

We need some realistic ordinances to deal with these changes. Wishfull thinking will not make wheat profitable nor keep us in the mix of a competitive market.