Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mayor should guarantee referendum

Mayor should guarantee referendum

    Bellevue Mayor Chris Koch should publicly pledge to ensure that the November City Council election will be a referendum on the question of the controversial Eccles annexation.
    Otherwise, he risks becoming the architect of the largest economic blunder ever to occur in the Sun Valley area.
    Koch controls the agenda for meetings of the City Council. Under no circumstances should he schedule any consideration of the annexation, which is fast becoming the single most important public issue up and down the Wood River Valley, until after the November election.
    It’s an open question as to whether the 227 acres should be annexed at all, let alone zoned for 90 acres of commercial development along nearly a mile of state Highway 75 north of Hailey. Such development could open the door to big-box stores and wreck the valley’s small retailers, cost jobs, lower wages, chop up the bike path and reduce residential property values. Yet, it’s had no substantial public debate in Bellevue.
    When they ran for election in 2010, council members Larry Plott and Barb Patterson both supported locating big-box stores in Bellevue. In 2005, under a different council, the city resisted when Home Depot knocked on its door.
    Some challengers are objecting to the way the proposed annexation was rushed through the Planning and Zoning Commission. They are expressing reservations about big-box retailers and their potential for shuttering hometown businesses and gutting downtowns.
    Koch is running unopposed for re-election. He should give Bellevue voters the chance to weigh in on the annexation at the ballot box. Further, if the city drafts or reviews any annexation documents, the mayor should commit to releasing them to the public.
    It’s the democratic thing to do with such a monumental issue.

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