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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 9 - 15, 2003

Opinion Columns

Planning for
a new century

Guest opinion by J. Robb Brady

J. Robb Brady, a member of the Post Register editorial board, is the former publisher of the Idaho Falls newspaper.

Nearly three decades after passage of Idaho’s Land Use Planning Act, planning in this state has become outdated. In most cities and counties, the process is patchwork at best. Growth is neither orderly, nor is it efficient - and ordinary people end up paying economic and emotional costs.

There’s an emerging vision about how to handle the problems and expense of growth. It can mean less disruption to residential neighborhoods, small businesses and farms.

The Local Government Commission based in Sacramento, Calif., just released a three-year study compiling model zoning codes across the nation. Called the "Smart Growth Zoning Codes," it offers local governments a model to accomplish:

  • Street and highway planning that protects neighborhoods and businesses. In Idaho, highway and street planning is so far along by the time public hearings are held that the projects become a fait accompli.

  • Off-street parking standards that accommodate businesses.

  • Small, basic retail centers near compact, concentrated housing developments. Using a mix of residential and commercial zones, this approach would offer consumers an alternative to driving longer distances to malls.

  • Vacant lots that are used in a way that serves both the owner and the public.

  • Pedestrian and bicycle paths that promote walking and riding—and significantly reduce automobile use.

  • Growth that pays its own costs. Although it varies from community to community, local taxpayers often pay the cost of extending basic services to new developments.

  • Two other programs have emerged to allow planners a way to evaluate a proposal’s costs and impacts before any final decision:

  • Pennsylvania State University’s land use study examines the impact that different land uses have on nearby residential property values. The university also examined the "rural-urban fringe," an often agonizing issue for Idaho’s local planners. Figuring out the effect of changes—before they actually happen—would be a priceless tool for planners and neighborhood residents who often learn of pending development late in the game. Giving people the big picture can make a big difference in how the public chooses to react to good and bad planning.

  • CommunityViz, a resourceful new computer visual software developed in Colorado can show how a proposed development will look in a three dimensional perspective on aerial photos or maps. This software also can help compute the project’s costs to the public.

All three advancements have this in common: They provide to ordinary people the detailed information that today is held largely by developers. That empowers the public, promising to give it the kind of influence tomorrow that only developers have today.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.