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VARD's statement at the emergency moratorium public hearing

Decision Makers: Board of County Commissioners – Teton County, Idaho

Topic: VARD's statement at the emergency moratorium public hearing

Note: VARD’s Executive Director, Kathy Rinaldi, made this public statement at the Monday, March 26th emergency public hearing.  Because of the three-minute time limit, this represents a condensed form of our more complete statement on the moratorium, which we have also posted in this section.  

I find it very unfortunate that we are in the position today where the county feels its only option is a moratorium. Nevertheless, I support the commissioners' decision on a moratorium because I do believe the county has run out of viable options. A moratorium temporarily halts all new development regardless of its quality, and that is unfortunate. I know people caught up in this and I truly feel for them.

We need to understand how we got to this point so we don’t repeat it. The situation we are in today is comprised of a series of events over the past 4 years: the rush of 2.5 zoning starting in 2003 and then the county opening the floodgates for development in 2004 with the passage of the Comprehensive Plan and Subdivision Ordinance that greatly increased county densities without much foresight into cost of community services.

There are many developers in Teton Valley who care about doing good developments that take into account the unique assets of the community and care that the future residents of their developments, as well as all the residents, have adequate services. We’ve seen that with the generosity of some developers to help the county with affordable housing and other county infrastructure.

Where does this leave us? A county government overwhelmed and overworked with development pressure, little time to plan and decision makers doubting if they have the ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. To rely on the assumption that subdivisions are being platted only for speculation or that they may never be built out is a false hope and a recipe for disaster. When the county approves a subdivision it essentially gives the guarantee to those future lot owners that they can uphold their health, safety and welfare – whether it be water quality, emergency services, or protecting their property values. Right now we can’t do that – and that does and will affect all of our property rights. We have a runaway train and we need to avoid a derailment. In this case a loss of life or limb is too late. At that point the county hadn’t done its job.

I would rather the county spend my tax money on planning that protects all its residents then protecting the few and eventually fighting litigation from individual property owners because their water quality was compromised or emergency services couldn’t get to them on time. Additionally, without a Preferred Land Use Map developers and the county are vulnerable to having their subdivisions or zone changes overturned as reflected by the Idaho Supreme Court Case Sprenger, Grubbs & Assoc. vs. City of Hailey.

I understand that the 69 pending applications in the process will not be affected. Additionally, with the current backlog of applications there is a 5-month wait list for applications to be heard. Because of this timeframe, a moratorium at this point does not represent a big brake on development as some suggest.

I applaud the Commission for the courage to take this step. You’ve tried to work with the P&Z to alleviate some of the issues the county is facing. But the combination of being overworked and overwhelmed has produced no recommendations or amendments to you from the P&Z in three months.

I encourage the county and this community to get beyond the divide in the valley and start working toward our common goals. I do believe we all care about similar things – clean air, clean water, opportunities for employment and housing, and a person’s ability to retire with dignity. Instead of focusing on what makes us different, we can focus on the values we have in common. IF we can focus on this I’m confident we will find win-win solutions across the board. Whatever decision is made tonight, I strongly encourage the Board to seek professional help to ensure that we can process the backlog of applications as well as address the planning issues facing the county. We can’t do this alone.

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