Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"Weed issues arise as Whitman County finalizes laws'"

From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Questions about weed control add new element to discussion

The subject of weed control popped up Monday night during what is expected to be Whitman County’s final public hearing on proposed changes to its rural-residential zoning laws.

Hilltop building, property size, location and landscape standards dominated the discussion at the beginning of the hearings, which began in September and continued throughout the fall.

County commissioners previously nixed portions of the law that determined what color people could paint their homes, and they decided to open up hilltops to development.

Potential consequences from mandated buffer zones between properties and the possibility of rapid weed growth were pointed out Monday.

Dale Dechenne, who farms near St. John, said the potential for residents to neglect the buffer zones could create weed havens that could threaten fields downwind.

He said farmers can’t plow and utilize the buffer zones, so motivation to spray the ground and control noxious weeds diminishes.

Dechenne said most people who don’t farm do not understand that everyone must control weeds or they become uncontrollable.

“It could be devastating,” he said.

Whitman County Planner Mark Bordsen said the county has laws that regulate weed control for the county.

Don Nelson, who farms west of Colfax, said the county is underfunded in regard to weed control, and people moving into the area won’t understand how weeds can devastate crops.

Under the proposed laws, buffer zones can be decreased if neighboring landowners sign an affidavit agreeing to that end.

The idea of rapid growth concerns some county residents as much as weeds.

Dechenne said development of any scale has been stifled in the county over the last 30 years. When development opens up, Dechenne hopes everyone won’t start building homes all over the county and blotch its rural reputation and beauty.

Others said the proposed laws are too restrictive. Robert Zorb, who owns property in the county, agreed with several speakers who said the proposed laws would strangle landowners’ property rights.

“A lot of people forget that we are taking the three-year waiting period off the ordinance,” Commissioner Greg Partch said. “We are not trying to close the county up, we are trying to open it up.”

Rhod McIntosh, who served on the planning commission that began drafting the proposed laws four years ago, said the goal is to protect farmers.

He also said everything in the proposed laws will not work as planned. He suggested the ordinance be a living document that can be changed as the county grows and changes.

“We want agricultural-based jobs in places like St. John,” Dechenne said. “But we need homes for them to live in and property to build on. It’s just not an easy situation. It’s tough.”

Commissioner Les Wigen said the public input was helpful.

“It’s nice to know where the people are at,” he said.

Wigen’s decision on the rural-residential laws will be his last before he retires as county commissioner.

The commissioners said they would write letters to address questions brought by speakers at Monday’s meeting.

There is a slight possibility that more public-input sessions and workshops could be scheduled, although commissioners expect to vote on the laws next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.


WHAT HAPPENED: Whitman County residents
told commissioners what they think about the proposed
rural-residential zoning laws.

WHAT IT MEANS: The proposed laws are in the refinement stages. Commissioners sought feedback from the public.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Commissioners will probably make a decision on the proposed laws at 10:30 p.m. Dec. 26.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: The proposed laws would change the way property is developed in the county.
So it seems the new rural residential zoning ordinance is destined to pass with some pretty onerous restrictions, despite ovrewhelming opposition. Oh well, at least the three year moratorium is being done away with.

I'm still amazed at how some in the county are more than happy to continue with the three year development moratorium. It's easy to see now how we got the moratorium in the first place. There is a very selfish "I've got mine, too bad for you" attitude that exists among some, and not just in Pullman. Some farmers seem to feel this way also. And it's a very unrealistic belief. Pent up housing demand or not, Whitman County is not going to turn into King or Snohomish County overnight. There are not going to be any 300 house subdivisions built in St. John.


Satanic Mechanic said...

This is going to get messy. I can see it now, some pinko builds a house next to a farm. The farmer sprays 24-D (weed killer) on his fields and the pinko claims that the chemical makes his butt hurt so he sues the farmer.
Do not make buffer zones, it is a waste of land. Enforce the same weed laws on the residental housing as the famers. I was threatened with a $5000 fine when I first moved onto my 11 acres if I did not control the weeds.
On a sidenote- Whitman County should make a law that residental people cannot sue or make laws against farmers spraying, burning, harvesting, harrowing, and/or discing (creates dust) the land.
If you move out to the farm country, expect farming.

Ray Lindquist said...

IF the buffer zones make it into law the county should take that much land off the farmers tax rolls since they are not able to use the land to pay rent. I should say they (the Farmers) are unable to farm the counties land since it is they that own it. They make the rules that govern it, they own it since the farmer pays taxes to the owners (county) for its use.