Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hailey prepares for takings initiative

Initiative would require governments to pay landowners for lost values

Express Staff Writer

An impending statewide vote on a property rights initiative could have major ramifications for the city of Hailey.

Ahead of the upcoming Nov. 7 vote, elected officials in Hailey have decided to prioritize land-use issues the city is considering when setting agendas for upcoming public meetings.

On Monday, Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson addressed the potential impacts of Proposition 2, should the initiative be approved by Idaho voters. The initiative would require governments to pay Idaho landowners whose property value is reduced by any land-use laws approved after the proposition becomes law.

Proposition 2 would have major ramifications for the city of Hailey.

"If it passes it would be a significant change," Williamson told the Hailey City Council. "You'll see planning come to a halt."

Specifically, the council on Monday approved a motion allowing Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant to use her judgement when setting meeting agendas for both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council, Hailey City Clerk Heather Dawson said.

The move gives McBryant wider latitude to prioritize land-use issues over other pending applications, "latitude beyond what she normally does," Dawson said.

Typically, the mayor selects agenda items for public meetings based on a first-come, first-served basis, Dawson said.

The council also discussed and agreed that public meetings during the next several months may have to be scheduled on a more frequent basis than the typical twice-per-month schedule for the P&Z Commission and City Council.

"Potentially four times per month," Dawson said.

In late June, initiative sponsor Laird Maxwell turned in 49,053 valid signatures to qualify Proposition 2 for the November ballot. It needed 47,881.

If passed, Proposition 2 would become law on Nov. 22, Williamson said. Any land use on the books in Hailey before that date would be exempt from the new law, he said.

As soon as possible, Hailey city leaders need to take a hard look at the city's zoning and subdivision ordinances to see what should be revised or changed before Nov. 22, Williamson said.

"Ask the question, 'What do you want Hailey to look like forever,'" he said.

"Any decrease in value, the city may be paying for," Williamson warned. "I don't think we will make many more amendments (if the initiative is approved)."

Ongoing land-use issues in Hailey highlighted by City Council members Monday as being critically important include possible revisions to the city's Townsite Overlay District, the proposed creation of a Hailey historic district and a tree ordinance.

Proposition 2 is somewhat similar to an Oregon law that requires governments to pay a landowner if a new land-use law or regulation will reduce property values. The government can waive the law or pay the landowner.

The Idaho initiative just requires payment, and would also apply to new regulations on farming and forest rules.

Oregon, according to the state's Web site, has received claims that total $3.7 billion under the 2004 law, referred to as Measure 37. The state's Supreme Court upheld the law in March.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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