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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 20 - 26, 2002


amendment needs amending

Blaine County could face a lawsuit every time it makes a development decision if a proposed constitutional amendment gets the support of the Legislature. And thereís a good chance it will.

The House State Affairs Committee thought highly enough of the proposal to send it to the floor with a 16-3 vote last week. Only Democrats opposed the measure.

The amendment would blast local planning and zoning provisions to smithereens. It would render the most powerful tool for the protection of the quality of life in Idaho utterly useless. It could leave cities and counties helpless to balance development.

Under the amendment, any rule or regulation that restricts or impairs the use or economic value of real property would be a "taking." If an ordinance were found to be a "taking," local government would either have to compensate a property owner, or drop the ordinance.

The amendment sounds reasonable enough, but itís not.

Counties and cities will be damned if they do, and damned if they donít. If they approve a development the neighbors hate, the amendment invites the neighbors to sue. If they donít approve a development that will raise the underlying land values, the amendment invites developers to sue.

It leaves local government in a terrible fix.

It could put planners in straitjackets. It could lead to unrestrained sprawl, uncontrollable pressure on infrastructure, and community deterioration.

Idaho already has a well-developed body of "takings" law that is balanced with the need for community planning.

The Idaho Cattle Association and the Idaho Water Users Association are pushing the amendment, apparently to protect their lands and livelihoods. Agricultural lands need protection. However, the amendment is too broad and its impacts too unpredictable.

The Legislature should do every community in the state a favor, and send the amendment back to the drawing board.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.