This letter was submitted to the Teton County Planning & Zoning Commission and the Teton Valley News.
I and other residents of the valley have listened intently to the working session meetings going over the summer. The public format of the meetings is appreciated and improved over the previous closed door steering committee meetings. I also know that it has taken time out of every commissioners busy schedule and this is a appreciated. As I have talked with other residents of Teton Valley there seems to be a shared concern of how fast this is being pushed.
We have heard in the last few meetings that the County Commissioners want this on their desk very quickly with a public meeting in mid October. I do not understand what the rush to get this pushed through so quickly. I do hope that the rumors that county commissioners do not want this carried over into an election year are false, and this is not the motivation for the rush.
That being said I do not know of another reason for these dates given. If there is another reason why this is being rushed so much with given deadlines it would be good to tell the public to dispel these rumors.
I agree that we need an updated development code and that it should be updated to serve the people of the valley. A new development code will have significant impacts on the lives of thousands of residents and cannot be taken lightly. Rushing through this process, if not done properly, could lead to many adverse impact on residents with an unknown upside.
Some people may argue that years have been spent on the code and we just need to get it done and finalized. I agree that we need to get it done and finalized, and years have been wasted drafting a code with little public input and in closed door meetings. The format this summer was the first legitimate attempt at ensuring public input in the process, so slow down and do it right.
Some of the reasons to slow down are:
- The county currently does not have a planner in place and in numerous meetings there have been questions for a planner that go unanswered. Parts of the code are complicated and need planning experience. We cannot afford making a mistake because we do not have a planner to help lead the process.
- There appears to be a lack of due diligence between the meetings. The meetings are currently 1 week apart and do not allow enough time to review decisions and make sure that they are legal and also include stake holders. A good example is the decision on short term rentals and number of people being dictated by sceptic systems. Who will determine how many people a sceptic system can handle? Has an engineer been consulted? Has Idaho statute for Sceptic Tanks been reviewed? This is just one example of due diligence required in the code.
- The rush to push this through will increase the likelihood of a legal issue after passing. It was clear from the first draft this spring that an Idaho based attorney did not review code in its entirety. There were many sections of the code that went against Idaho Statute. Will an attorney review the code before it goes to the public? Has it been ensured that the code meets Idaho Law? Logan Simpson does not have an Idaho Attorney on staff so we cannot rely on them for this legal review.
- The code initially took over 1 year to draft and now the PnZ has been looking at it for 3 months. It was communicated the public would have 3 weeks before the public hearing. While I understand that this is Idaho law, is it the right thing to do? The draft has taken so long and is nearly 200 pages long and now you expect the public to review it and get comments to the PnZ within 3 weeks. Before the previous PnZ meeting in May the public was given 3 weeks for review and comment. However many members of the public found issues with the code after the 3 week mark. Additional comments were submitted to the PnZ with feedback, however during the working sessions this summer only the original feedback from the 3 week period was considered. Is this serving the public in the right way? If we really want the best document possible shouldn’t we give the public more time to read it, consider it and give comments on it. You have a choice of following the strictest version of the law or doing the right thing and giving the public more time. There is nothing legally stopping you from giving a 2 month comment period.
- Residents of the valley have gone through the summary prepared by Logan Simpson from the last public meeting. The summary did not match the 3800 pages of comments sent in by the public. Certain sections and aspects were dismissed or misrepresented. We understand that PnZ commissioners have not read all of the letters so there have been no checks and balances on the Logan Simpson summary.
- Idaho Statute dictates that new development codes should not contradict the comprehensive plan. If the proposed new development code does not align with the comprehensive plan the code can either not be passed or the comprehensive plan must be amended at the same time of passing of the code. Has the new draft code been verified to be in alignment with the comprehensive plan?
I am not advocating we stop the process, but ensure the best document possible is passed. The following I believe would ensure this.
- Slow down the meetings and hold them bi-weekly at the most to ensure that due diligence can be done between.
- Get a planner engaged in the process to ensure the code can be implemented in a way that works for the county.
- Have the entire document reviewed by the County Prosecutor or designated attorney.
- Give an 8 week review time before the public hearing so people have enough time to review it in detail and understand the document.
- Review all sections of the code instead of picking and choosing certain sections.
Creating an arbitrary deadline for this to go to the county commissioners will be detrimental and costly to the county and will increase the likelihood that either a code is not passed at all or it is struck down by courts after passing. I would urge you along with many other residents of Teton County to not rush this process, all of the residents will suffer in the end.