Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Commissioners address land concerns"

From last Tuesday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Whitman County commissioners told residents there was no hidden agenda behind the county’s proposed land-use laws.

“There is no conspiracy,” Commissioner Jerry Finch said during a Monday meeting. “We are having these meetings now in the middle of harvest because this is the first time we could look at it.”

The laws are intended to promote development in the county while protecting its rural nature.

The laws would allow single-family homes in agricultural areas, but restrict them to areas near existing residences to minimize the impact on farm land. Under the current law, land must have been out of commercial agricultural production for three years and residential lots must have frontage on an improved county or state road.

Those requirements are not part of the proposed law, which would require new homes to be outside the view of existing houses, or more than 1,600 feet from existing homes. The homes must also have a 200-foot buffer zone.

Brenda Dillard, an opponent of the rural residential laws, wanted to know why the commissioners hired lawyer Brian McGinns, and why the information was not immediately made public.

“When we got the information it was marked client-attorney privilege,” Finch said. “Why hire a professional if you’re not going to listen?”

The commissioners reiterated the need for an attorney who deals specifically with land-use law to determine if the proposed law could stand up in court. After reading the report, Finch said the law has holes that the commissioners would patch.

At the end of the meeting, Dillard said the commissioners made progress after having their feet held to the fire. “I think we are getting somewhere,” she said.

Dan Nelson said the commissioners are trying to postpone looking at the law, but they are moving because of public pressure.

The commissioners said they have questions and concerns about the laws. They unanimously decided to address their questions instead of sending the proposed laws back to the planning commission.

“We all have concerns,” Commissioner Greg Partch said. “The color of house and plants in the yard, I don’t think we should control that, or even want to control it.”

Commissioner Les Wigen compared the land-use laws to the Pullman-Moscow corridor rezone the commissioners completed in 1999. Wigen’s term as commissioner will be up at the end of December. He said he wants to deal with the laws now.

The proposed law hasn’t been very popular.

Two-thousand residents signed a petition against all or part of the proposed ordinances, which required two years of planning and public input. People want to develop their land, but they don’t want requirements, such as plant types and views, stifling their options, Dillard said.

The commissioners plan to schedule a public hearing or public workshop around the end of the month.

“In the end I have faith in our farmers and people that will build,” Wigen said. “They should have the freedom to build where they want.”
The county commission has to stop the foot dragging on this issue. Onerous land use restrictions make homes more expensive. Whitman County is FIFTH WORSE out of Washington's 39 counties in housing affordability. This lack of affordable housing is directly responsible for preventing us from growing economically and providing more of those "living wage" jobs the liberals are howling about. Let's "git 'er done" commissioners.

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