Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, September 08, 2006


I have already run candidate profiles for both Jim White and Harmon Smith, but today's Lewiston Tribune has some additional information. Reporter Joel Mills apparently asked both candidates their stance on the two top county issues: the rural residential ordinance and the Hawkins Companies corridor development. Here are the candidates answers:

Rural Residential Housing Ordinance

White, who calls himself a private property rights advocate, said farmers should be allowed more freedom to sell acreage for development. "I think we have lots of areas that we could develop without disturbing agriculture."

He said a proposed rural zoning ordinance goes too far with its rules on blocking neighbor's views, house colors and other restrictions. "As long as they're building their house to code, I'm sure not going to tell that guy he's painting his house the wrong color."

Most District 3 constituents would be more comfortable with the current ordinance, White said. But the three-year wait to convert farms to houses should be dropped, he added.
Residential development is also a hot issue in Whitman County. A rural zoning ordinance being considered puts new restrictions on house colors and locations. Smith said many District 3 residents would like to see those restrictions relaxed.

Smith said he and many of his potential constituents think the old zoning ordinance does a good job of balancing agricultural and residential uses, save for the three-year wait to turn ag land over to housing.

"I understand why people are upset about the three years," he said of the moratorium meant to discourage development on farmland. "A lot of people don't have the money to just sit on that property for that time."

But Smith said he sees both sides of the issue. "I would really like to explore that a little more before I gave my final answer."
Corridor Development


Commercial development around the Pullman-Moscow highway is appropriate, but it should be organized and possibly wait until the rock quarry and concrete plant at its midway point have exhausted their usefulness.

"I hope that we can have some plans that will make it a reasonable development, not helter-skelter," he said, adding the Chipman Trail greenbelt that runs parallel to the highway can and should be preserved amid commercial or residential projects.

"I don't have a problem making that a nice park out there with development on both sides."
The small towns deserve a share of any growth that may come, he said, but the Pullman-Moscow corridor is a natural place to allow and encourage some of it, he said.

Smith said some of the environmental concerns voiced by some, including Moscow city councilors, may be a result of ineffective communication.

"I do think we need to work a little more closely with the Idaho side, make them feel a little more at ease with what's happening."

One proposed development that centers around a Lowe's home improvement store butts up against the Idaho state line. That's right next to Moscow, but several miles from Pullman. Its location has raised questions about who will be responsible for utilities, law enforcement and emergency protection.

"I really think that between the two groups, there's some common ground, and I think we need to find that," Smith said.
So White is against both the current 3 year moratorium and the proposed changes to the Rural Residential Housing Ordinance, while Smith seems to favor leaving it the 3 year moratorium in place. Smith is not going to have much success convincing Ed Schweitzer to expand into LaCrosse or anywhere else as long as he supports the 3 year moratorium to which Schweitzer is so opposed.

Both White and Smith seem a bit squishy on the corridor development, which is too bad. Whitman County needs that revenue badly. The tax money generated by the corridor development will help the small towns they talk about helping. Smith's attitude of working with Moscow is naive. Just ask the current commissioners. It's not "ineffective communications", its a completely different agenda. Moscow will fight hard to stop ANY Whitman County corridor development, environmentally friendly or not, and Les Wigen's replacment had better be able to stand tough.

Kudos to Joel Mills fo asking the tough questions.

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