Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wise vote deserves wise response from planners

In rejecting the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing Proposition 2, Idaho voters wisely spared their state what could have become years of pricey court battles, chaos in community planning and zoning and a breakdown in sensible land use.

There was no "property rights" altruism in the millionaire New York real estate speculator who bankrolled Prop 2 and kindred ballot initiatives in other states. The well-organized and diverse group of environmental and business interests who led the opposition to Prop 2 correctly nailed the referendum for what it was—an attempt to abolish community planning and zoning authority and enrich speculators.

The overwhelming Election Day rejection of Prop 2 was a vote of confidence in the groups that led the opposition as well as a vote of confidence in community planning and zoning.

That said, it now rests with county and city governments to demonstrate that confidence was not ill-placed.

The first order of business for county and city governments who inoculated their powers with hurried anti-Prop 2 antidotes should be to comb through those ordinances and weed out flaws brought on by pre-election hurry.

The next move should be a resolve by local government to carry out the true meaning of Prop 2's defeat—exercising sensible land use through planning and zoning decisions that reflect a vision for the community demanded by voters.

This is no academic matter. Within the near future, for example, the city of Hailey must make unprecedented land-use decisions involving property encompassing Friedman Memorial Airport.

Ultimately, more than 200 prime acres literally in the lap of downtown Hailey could be rezoned for new uses if and when the airport relocates to a new distant site.

A variety of mixed uses is desirable, but they must be consistent with the character of the area and the city.

Some residential, but how much? Some light industrial, but how much and where? A college campus? Government offices? A new library? A high-tech park? Retail shops? Medical facilities? A major new park and recreation area?

Possibilities are plentiful.

Look south, and more land-use and zoning challenges await Bellevue and Blaine County planners, as the population footprint bulges into agricultural areas.

One factor is constant in land-use decisions: They virtually create an irreversible character for an area.

Responsible attention to detail and an eye for a community's needs years and years hence will be a major test of planning decisions today—and could stave off any move toward Prop 2, round 2.

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