Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Farmers, ranchers, landowners unite!

Guest opinion by Ken Dreyer

Ken Dreyer is a resident of Ketchum.

A serious threat to your property rights is occurring in Blaine County under the guise of the "2025 Plan" and the draft inclusionary community housing subdivision ordinance.

First, the "2025 Plan." I attended a Blaine County sponsored meeting on Nov. 15 that sought public input on how Blaine County should look in the year 2025 (20-year horizon). A major premise throughout the meeting was the fact that Idaho Power Co. projects the county will have or need to accommodate 10,000 new residences over the next 20 years.

The basic question seemed to be where this new growth should occur. Keeping this in mind, the private consultant hired by Blaine County acknowledged that under the existing zoning rules that have been in effect for a long time, the current buildout capacity between Ketchum to the north and Timmerman Hills to the south is about 80,000 units (I have not verified this number).

The interesting part of the proposed changes concerns anybody who owns property south of Baseline Road. Four basic scenarios were presented. The first one was to keep the current development patterns or, in other words, the existing zoning intact. The other three scenarios were different variations on concentrating developments around existing higher-density areas or creating a new higher-density area (new town) to accommodate the anticipated increase in population. Other than keeping the existing zoning intact, the other three scenarios indicated that the land south of Baseline Road would be "downzoned" to A-160 or one unit of development for each 160 acres of land. If you live south of Baseline Road and your property lies outside of steep slopes and other critical environmental areas, your current zoning is probably A-20. The A-20 zone currently allows one unit of development for each 20 acres of land.

I own property south of Baseline Road and am extremely concerned that the majority of people who don't own property here may find it easy to take our property rights away without compensation for their benefit. I am not quite sure where it originated, but there is now a major effort dedicated to preserving agriculture and "open space." I don't know about the rest of the property owners in this area, but I like the existing zoning and the knowledge that under the existing zoning this is my "open space" and my agricultural right. If someone else wants to enjoy these so-called public benefits then they are welcome to come and help me clean the ditches and maintain the fence lines so that they too can honestly appreciate these amenities.

Even though the 20-year forecast is for only a 13 percent potential of the total buildout (10,000/80,000) of the currently available land to be developed, there are forces out there that would very much like to make landowners south of Baseline Road pay for most of the costs of the proposed downzone by denying you of your current property rights.

Second, and lastly, the draft inclusionary community housing ordinance would require any future subdivision to provide 26 percent of all lots for community housing (plus you have to build the house, too). This is absurd! If the county is successful in stealing your current A-20 zoning and converting it to A-160, then the following example is a likely scenario. Let's assume you own 1 square mile of open-space land, which is 640 acres. If you don't do anything to stop the county, you might be allowed to create four 160-acre lots. One of the lots you will have to build a house on and basically give to the county. Plus, since one lot is only 25 percent of the four lots you will owe an additional fee for the other 1 percent. The community housing inclusionary ordinance is one of the most unfair, biased tools that the county is trying to impose on you in their quest to do anything in their power to stop development in the south part of Blaine County—at your expense. If the county is serious about solving a community-housing problem then it needs to look beyond making one sector of the community carry the burden of the solution. My mantra on this issue is, "If you have a community-wide problem, you need a community-wide solution."

You don't unfairly and inequitably target one sector to provide the lion's share for the solution. How would you like it if you were a business owner (insert car dealer, grocer, sports shop owner, coffee house, plumber, etc), and you were required to sell 26 percent of your gross revenue at far below your replacement cost? You wouldn't or probably couldn't do it. If there is a community-housing problem then we are all responsible. The only fair solution is a solution that involves all sectors. There are various mechanisms available to the county that would achieve an equitable solution, i.e. bonding, taxes, impact fees, etc., without unfairly burdening any one sector of the economy.

I resent the fact that someone else is telling me that I should relinquish my long-standing property rights so that they can enjoy a better view! It is not fair, it is not equitable, and it is not right.

If you live or own property south of Baseline Road you need to get more involved. The "down-zoning" of your property and the inclusionary community-housing ordinance will adversely affect your lifestyle and the lifestyle of your children and grandchildren.

I am not completely sure how to get involved, but please contact me and I will at least keep a database of concerned people who want to be informed. Or, contact your county commissioners or Planning and Zoning Commission members and let them know how you feel about this.

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