Friday, November 10, 2006

Cities hail failure of Proposition 2

?Takings? initiative soundly defeated in Blaine, other counties


Express Staff Writers

City officials up and down Blaine County were rejoicing in the sound defeat Tuesday of Proposition 2, a "takings" initiative that would have required governments to compensate property owners for devaluation of land due to zoning regulations.

"Obviously, we're very happy the big loser was Proposition 2," Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall said Wednesday.

Voters statewide trounced Proposition 2 by 76 percent to 24 percent. According to unofficial results posted on the state of Idaho's Web site, 335,955 people voted against the initiative, while 105,789 people voted for it, with 955 of 955 precincts reporting.

Proposition 2 supporters said the initiative would have set controls on zoning laws that stripped value from private property. Opponents said Proposition 2 was a poorly written and unnecessary initiative that would have resulted in a frenzy of lawsuits.

Support for Proposition 2 locally grew in part due to opposition to the county's 2025 ordinances, which downzoned some south-county parcels.

Most Blaine County voters, however, supported the position of their elected officials, with 79 percent voting "no" and 19 percent voting "yes," according to official Blaine County election results.

Residents in nearby counties such as Camas, Custer and Twin Falls voted down the proposition by similar margins.

"I was shocked at the overwhelming defeat," said Ketchum Planning Director Harold Moniz, who expected a more split vote. "Several groups put together a broad base of support (to defeat it). I'm happy. I don't think it would have been a good thing for the state."

The cross-section of opponents to the measure included the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the Idaho Association of Realtors, environmental groups, and U.S. Rep. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, elected Tuesday to the Idaho governor's office.

The city of Ketchum set an ambitious—some said too ambitious—agenda to enact land-use ordinances in the event Proposition 2 passed.

Items on the city's to-do list were fast-tracked, scrutinized by the Planning & Zoning Commission, then, in the final weeks of October, sent on to the council for approval.

The council approved multiple text amendments, added a new chapter for workforce housing "linkage" and replaced the entire chapter governing the Community Core zoning district.

Moniz said the city's process, which solicited public input to help shape ordinances, ensured support for the changes.

"With everybody under pressure, it showed how good rule-making and bad rule-making happens," he said.

With the luxury of time, the council will now review the amendments.

"Now we can go back and tune up (our work)," Hall said. "We'll re-notice it and make minor changes on a couple of things, clean up the language and do it without a gun to our head."

The city of Sun Valley felt that pressure, which ultimately spelled the demise of multiple ordinances the council tried to enact.

"The process that dropped out was informing and educating (people)," said Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson. "That's where the opportunities for conflict come in."

Sun Valley might revisit ordinances that govern building size now that the city has more time to solicit input and engage in dialogue.

"We were really pushed to the wall by having to do two years of planning work in a few months," Thorson said.

The city of Bellevue also fast-tracked the consideration and passage of a number of ordinances addressing issues such as floodplain regulations, affordable housing and development on hillsides.

In the run-up to the Proposition 2 vote, Bellevue City Council members considered, but ultimately rejected, a proposed ordinance that would have regulated the demolition of historic buildings in the city.

Perhaps the most significant step taken by the Bellevue City Council ahead of the vote was its passage of two separate affordable housing ordinances: an "inclusionary housing" ordinance and a "linkage" ordinance.

The latter, approved just days before the election on Thursday, Nov. 2, will be reviewed by the council within six months. The council made this request as it approved the last-minute passage, Bellevue Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles said Wednesday.

"We're going to be very cautious," he said.

Eckles seemed clearly relieved as he spoke about the outcome of the Proposition 2 vote.

"The vote certainly reflects the confidence voters have in their elected bodies. Citizens support good land-use planning," he said.

Hailey Planning Director Kathy Grotto spoke in similar terms early Thursday morning.

Like their municipal counterparts to the north and south, Grotto and other city planning staff and elected officials worked overtime in an effort to address certain planning issues before the Proposition 2 vote.

Items fast-tracked through the Hailey P&Z and City Council included numerous text amendments to the city's zoning and subdivision ordinances, several rezones, changes to the regulations specific to the Townsite Overlay district and the creation of a new historic district.

Despite all the long hours, however, Grotto expressed relief with the outcome of the election.

"The city can go on doing good planning," she said. "People understand that good planning is good for a community."

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