Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, September 01, 2006

Falling on Deaf Ears

My previous post made me look back in the Lewiston Tribune's archives and I found some interesting quotes from Ed Schweitzer.

From June 20, 2001:
Hunting elephants is a lofty enterprise.

But keeping the small game in your sights will put food on the table and trophies on the wall, noted Ed Schweitzer, president and founder of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.

As Schweitzer announced Tuesday, his company is about to expand for the second time in as many years, the Palouse's civic leaders questioned him as to how they could attract more large businesses like his to the private industry-starved area.

"I urge you and implore you to marginalize zoning to a liberal position," Schweitzer said. "Fair, free, flat, and open zoning; that will make it a county attractive to all business."

Whitman County has slowed economic growth by trying to keep agricultural land from being developed,
Schweitzer said.

"They have one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake."

He recommended taxpayer money, in government incentives, not be put toward "elephant hunting," or seeking only big business, but that zoning be open to all business.

"It would be a big mistake if we were not to welcome a barbershop as well as a plane manufacturer," Schweitzer said. "If (Whitman County) does that, they will come."
It's five years later and we're still screwing around with zoning and Wal-Mart's pans in Pullman have been delayed for two years. When will things ever change around here?

From March 28, 2002:
But if the county wants more industry like Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories to come in, it will have to move more quickly to kill zoning laws keeping them out, Schweitzer warned Whitman County commissioners.

"My plans should not be taken as an indication it is easy to do business here, because it is not," Schweitzer said.

An old law on the books preventing developers from building on farmland before it has been fallow three years is the greatest stumbling block for new business, Schweitzer said.

"We have had one foot on the brake and one on the gas for too long," Schweitzer said, echoing his sentiments at last year's company announcement.

"What Ed is saying is not falling on deaf ears," said Whitman County Commissioner Greg Partch.

Commissioner Jerry Finch said the county is looking into a plan to repeal or at least shorten the three-year development delay on farmland. The law was put in place 20 years ago to protect farmland but no longer reflects the economic needs of the county, Finch said.
Its four years later, and the three-year moratorium is STILL in place. The proposal to get rid of the moratorium puts even more restrictions in its place. Apparently, some commissioners have gotten hard of hearing since 2002.

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Scotty said...

Tom do you believe that it is bad that there is a three year waiting period? Does that stop the developers from buying huge tracts of lands and developing it and taking it away from farming?

What do you think is a good balance between allowing for growth at the same time keeping all the farms from going away?

Tom Forbes said...

Absolutely, it's wrong. The current zoning ordinance was specifically passed back in the 70s to make development difficult and slow, and it has worked.

What developer wants to wait three years to develop? The market will have moved on by then.

In these tough times, what farmer wants to let his otherwise productive land sit fallow for three years on the off chance he can sell it?

Why can't a farmer just sell his land if he wants to, when he wants to? Isn't it his land? Hasn't he put his sweat and blood into it?

How does anyone have a "right to pretty scenery?" I don't remember that in the Constitution.

No one is putting a gun to these farmers' heads making them sell their land. It's not eminent domain that's seizing it. If every farm disappeared from Whitman County overnight, that would be the individual farmer's decision, not ours. By preventing farmers from selling their land, it's like eminent domain in reverse.

Why does everyone talk about "balance" on this issue. A balance between what? Freedom and tyranny? Rights and no rights? Some things should have no compromise. Freedom can be a scary thing, but what's the alternative?

Scotty said...

Nice response Tom!