From yesterday's Whitman County Gazette:
When county commissioners approved changes to the county's rural residential zoning ordinance April 30, they hailed the revisions for opening up rural Whitman County to new housing developments while protecting the area's unique scenery.You can't fool Father Time, Mother Nature, and the immutable laws of economics. You can't "free something up" with additional regulations. This is a lesson that may unfortunately cost Commissioners Partch and Finch their jobs next year.
While restrictions on building in viewsheds and buffers from county roads have protected skylines from being intruded on by houses, measurable growth has yet to be seen.
Assistant Cunty Planner Alan Thomson said there was a rush on permit applications before the code was officially changed. Residents looking to build in the ag zone would still have to wait three years for ground to come out of farming use.
County Planner Mark Bordsen said his office has seen a number of applications for Rural Housing Certificates on ground that would have had to be idle under the old code since the changes went into effect May 15.
However, Thomson said, those applications have not led to a significant spike in building permit applications.
"It's steady, and I think it will stay steady," said Thomson. "I don't think we'll ever have too much growth."
Overall county building permits are up this year, with 102 issued through June. In contrast, the planning department issued its 100th building permit on July 12 of last year.
However, most of those permits have been issued for workshops and toolsheds.
Of the 102 building permits, seven were for new homes, 2 below last year, but on par with the amount issued in each of the previous two years.
County building inspector Dan Gladwill said more applications for building permits have been made as of late, but speculated that might be attributed to the avaialbility of contractors finishing up spring jobs.
The amount of building permits issued by the county spiked after commissioners approved changes to zoning regulations that allowed for cluster zones in the ag district.
"I have seen some doozies of houses," said Thomson, who noted one building permit application included plans for seven bathrooms.
Speaking of big houses, the Gazette had a front page story on a developer who is considering a high-end, world class resort on Rock Lake, out past Malden. The developer's staff met with the county commissioners to get a feel for how the project would be received and felt "everyone seemed receptive to the idea."
Hmmmmmm. With Commissioner Partch saying, "This is the only lake in Whitman County. And it's also one of the only lakes in the state without housing on it," you have to wonder how the developer came to that conclusion.
The commissioners have been touting turning Whitman County into a tourist destination and encouraging new housing development for what seems like forever. Now here it is, knocking on the door. This project could add millions in valuation to the property tax rolls, increase retail sales, and create 200 new jobs. The development would have its own hotel, restaurant, fire station, airport, beach, boat docks, and possibly even an 18-hole golf course and promises to be as self-sufficient as possible. If the commissioners fumble this ball, you have to question their commitment to growth and development.