My wife and I own a Driggs townhouse that we currently lease. We have paid Teton County property tax for 29 years. We recently became involved for the first time with a city affair regarding a rezoning issue that I’d like to share.
On August 3, 2021 the Driggs City Council had scheduled a public hearing on the Bidache Rezone that had been posted for many weeks. Our townhouse adjoins this rezone and we received a public hearing notice soliciting our participation. The Bidache Rezone aims to convert the 3 designated zones on this property into one “Commercial Corridor” zone. One half of the Bidache parcel includes a woodland/wetland region that backs up to the Rendezvous townhouse community where our property is located.
Many in our community were concerned that “Commercial Corridor” zoning would be in our backyards and that protected wetlands along with big game and songbird migratory paths might be endangered. We researched state and local zoning codes and circulated among ourselves this information. Collectively, over 34 petitions against this rezone were submitted to the City Council for the public hearing. Petitions were well documented. We asked for amendments to the rezone more in line with the Drigg’s Comprehensive Code.
Approximately 10 neighborhood people came to the City Council hearing, my wife among them, a trip made with considerable expense. At the meeting’s commencement the City Council announced the Bidache Rezone would be postponed until Sept 21. No explanation was given for the abrupt cancellation. Several community members left angry that their voices had not been heard. We suspect this postponement was a delay tactic in hope that public participation would dissipate with time. How else to construe this last minute withdrawal other than to conclude that the proponents didn’t want to face the anticipated community response against their rezone?
Public hearings allow people a chance to have their voices heard about issues affecting their community. Local self-governance is the bedrock of American democracy of which the public is an essential and integral component. Significant energy went into engaging community participation, specifically the adjacent neighborhood, regarding this rezone’s environmental implications. Public hearings should not be unexpectedly withdrawn without written justifications placed in the public record.
Last minute hearing cancellations such as this past August 3rd Bidache Rezone stifle community discussion and violates the public trust. It also violates common courtesy.