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Addressing: a public safety issue; Housing Authority Resolution; Landfill closure and next steps; Planning and land use consultants hired; Moratorium rescinded

Addressing: A public safety issue
The day began with the BOCC holding one of their routine meetings with one of the municipalities in the county.   This time the meeting was with Driggs and the main conversation focused on a new addressing system for the county and cities. The best solution would be to have everyone in the valley on one standardized system for addresses that would transition seamlessly between the different municipal and county jurisdictions.  However since that is not the case now, in order to achieve that goal, many addresses would have to be changed which could be a nuisance for many, not to mention the costs. No matter what decision is ultimately made, the county and the three cities all have to make some changes to make a better addressing system. The bottom line is that an efficient and accurate addressing system is a matter of public safety, as rapid response times by fire, police and other emergency services relies on it.

Housing Authority Resolution
The BOCC signed a housing authority resolution, which is the first step to establishing a county housing authority to address the growing affordable housing issue in Teton Valley. The creation of a housing authority was based on the recommendations from the recently completed Teton County Housing Needs Assessment and Plan.  The housing authority will consist of a five to seven member board that will be authorized to enter into negotiations and contracts to acquire land and manage and construct affordable housing.  As a government entity the housing authority would have to comply with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other state and federal regulations.  If you are interested in serving on the Housing Authority Board, look for an upcoming ad in the TVN and send a letter of interest to the BOCC.

Most communities with a Housing Authority also have a private, 501c3 Housing Trust, which can meet elements of the housing shortage that the Housing Authority cannot because of limits upon them as a government entity.

Landfill closure and next steps
Nelson Engineering reported that the landfill has the capacity to remain open another three months at the current rate of use, which would take us to the 3rd week of September. Cugat Construction sent in a bid for $167,000 to build the interim transfer station building and that was accepted by the Board. The project will be completed in 6 to 8 weeks. It appears that the solid waste issues that have been plaguing our county for over 10 years are finally being resolved.

Planning and zoning
Planning and land use consultants hired
Clarion Associates, the planning and land use consulting firm recently hired by Teton County, will be in the valley on August 8-10 to begin gathering information on the work that they will be doing for the county. One of their first actions will be to interview a cross section of residents and county officials to hear opinions on the major issues facing the county. VARD is looking forward to seeing this work get started. Teton Valley's rapid growth is a concern to most valley residents and it will be enormously helpful to get direction and input from a professional planning group who has experience in growing resort communities like Teton Valley.

VARD views the hiring of a professional team like Clarion as a very proactive and cost efficient action on part of the BOCC to truly address the multiple planning issues facing the county. Unfortunately there are parties in the community trying to cast the county's contract with Clarion in the light of outsiders telling locals what to do. In VARD's opinion, the hiring of Clarion to help with planning and land use is not dissimilar to hiring an engineering firm to conduct a Capital Improvements Plan or sewer study. Ultimately the recommendations from any contracted group, whether it is Clairion for planning or Nelson Engineering for solid waste, will have to go before the scrutiny of the public and the public decision making process, including multiple public hearings and meetings at the P&Z and BOCC levels.  As a community, we have spent hundreds of hours and literally years trying to create codes that can implement the community's vision for the community. The P&Z and the BOCC have both concluded there are problems in our current polices and/or codes and professional help is merited which will help save the community time and money in the long run.

When a community is facing serious and complex issues like ours, it is very common to hire professionals who have experience in dealing with similar issues in similar communities.  To draw an analogy, when a person has a medical problem, such as cancer, they go to a doctor to help them address that problem. There is no shame in recognizing the need to ask a professional for help.  In fact, recognizing the serious consequences of ignoring resources and expertise would be negligent. We should expect our leaders to get professional advice on issues facing the county that are out of their realm of technical expertise. After all, that is what we elected them to do – to find a better plan to manage growth for all of Teton County residents.  

Moratorium rescinded
The BOCC moved to rescind the moratorium resolution that was still in place from March 2007.  After an injunction was granted by Judge Shindurling by a group of citizens opposed to the moratorium, the moratorium has been essentially unenforceable to date. Commissioner Young said that “Given the fact that the Judge had already made his opinion on the substance of the case known in his injunction ruling, we felt that it would be best to not get bogged down in a prolonged legal battle that would be moot before it was resolved when we have so many pressing growth management issues to deal with.”

VARD certainly empathisizes with the BOCC decision, which is understandable in the context of issues facing our valley as well as all the pressures upon the commissioners such as the upcoming recall election. However, on the larger stage of Idaho, it is regrettable that the case did not proceed to trial because it is our belief, and that of many legal experts around the state, that the Judge's ruling was flawed and directly contradicts the intention of Idaho's Local Land Use Planning Act (LUPA). VARD believes Judge Shindurling ruled on the substance of the moratorium in his injunction ruling – in his opinion the moratorium was unsubstantiated.  However, we also believe that if Judge Shindurling's ruling was challenged it would be overturned and that ruling would then continue to uphold the intention of LUPA when it was created nearly 32 years ago.  VARD believes the BOCCs decision is unfortunate because groups who do not believe in moratoria under almost any circumstances, or that moratoria can be an appropriate tool to deal with major growth issues, will probably use it as a precedent.

The next BOCC meeting is scheduled for August 13th.

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