This is an editorial from VARD’s Staff Attorney / Program Director Anna Trentadue to be published in the Oct 23, 2014 in the Teton Valley News.
Waiting…. Waiting…..OK GO!
Sometimes, it has been as exciting as watching paint dry, but still – totally worth it.
Over the past 18 months, I have attended almost all of the bimonthly code writing work sessions and public events surrounding the drafting of the new Victor, Driggs, and Teton County land use codes. By all accounts, Code Studio, a nationally recognized code writing firm funded by a $1.6M Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant to write land use codes for Victor, Driggs, and Teton County has a stellar reputation. However, the code writing process for the cities and the county has thus far has been very slow, particularly for a firm of this stature.
I have observed that Code Studio has repeatedly extended their work deadlines for the cities and county, and it appears that they are quickly running out of time to produce their originally promised, tailor-made land use code for the rural county. The Board of County Commissioners first engaged uncertified planner Stephen Loosli to do this work before eventually turning its attention to Code Studio once Mr. Loosli resigned last fall. To date, the volunteer members of the county Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) have understandably lost patience with this prolonged process; they have spent months waiting on Code Studio to produce their contracted work. As such, the P&Z is presently drafting a letter to the Board of County Commissioners outlining these issues. I have also observed that the overall management of the HUD grant has created an accountability vacuum for Code Studio, which VARD hopes to address in a later editorial.
As for the Cities of Victor and Driggs, they engaged with Code Studio from day one. After several delayed deadlines by Code Studio, the cities recently received extensive working drafts from them. I recently chatted with Victor’s planner who said the present draft is workable and about 85% of the complete product that the city needs.
So what happens next? Victor and Driggs have working drafts from Code Studio that will go through staff and city revisions. At some point there will be opportunities for public input on the near horizon, and hopefully public hearings and eventually, adoption.
By contrast, it appears that Teton County will most likely be doing its own code writing in-house as the HUD grant is ending soon. Neither Mr. Loosli nor Code Studio has produced a usable final product, which means it’s “Git-R-Done” time for the county. To accomplish this monumental project, I think it’s critically important for the county staff to have the appropriate resources, software, time, and training. Projects this large will involve the cooperative effort of many county departments; they need a stable and supportive work environment from their bosses – the Board of County Commissioners.
As for the county P&Z, I expect the workload for these hard working volunteers will increase exponentially. There is no room for politicizing this volunteer board, which must work cooperatively as a team for the betterment of the entire community.
Here’s where you come in: the P&Z will need the support and participation of the entire community through this evolving effort. We will continue to actively track this ongoing code writing process. You can sign up on our website to receive free VARD updates and opportunities for public participation: www.tetonvalleyadvocates.org.
Program Director / Staff Attorney
Valley Advocates for Responsible Development