Just as Kootenai County gets on with the long-overdue business of re-writing the dysfunctional land use codes, the chronic malcontents have indeed crawled out from under their rocks to wail about their property rights and to attempt to derail an important process. Unfortunately, their lack of concern for everyone else’s property rights illustrates how misguided they actually are.
In a hysterical email that was widely circulated, several local residents are stirring up opposition to the County code revision process. The email opens with:
“If you care about Freedom and Property Rights and you live in Kootenai County, WAKE UP!”
And in the Coeur d’Alene Press article about the controversy, local representative Kathy Sims is quoted as saying “We’ve got to be very, very careful we don’t lose our private property rights.”
The problem is that what I am allowed to do on my property needs to be balanced with the impacts I have on yours. Indeed, your property values are probably protected by reasonable restrictions on my property rights.
In fact, land use planning and land use codes are actually required by state law in Idaho. It is not an option for our County Commissioners. The fact that they are taking the job very seriously and inviting a broad spectrum input is healthy and wise.
The advisory committee formed by the Commissioners for the code-drafting process is heavily weighted toward the business and development community, with advisers representing builders, realtors, developers, planners, land use lawyers, the local Chambers of Commerce, and even the so-called Citizens for Balance – a group that fought hard for a slack comprehensive plan. These business representatives are well-equipped to defend property rights in the code-writing process.
But they also recognize that this process needs to be followed to completion. Property rights – both yours and mine – are better protected with clarity and certainty in our land use laws. The current patchwork of laws, many of which date back to the 1970s, are utterly unclear and hopelessly uncertain. We need to fix our codes, we are required by Idaho law to do it, we have a process underway, and constructive input will be very important. But hysterical claims of property rights violations are decidedly not helpful to anyone. Rep. Kathy Sims, in particular, should know better.