I’m writing on behalf of Save Dalton, a growing group of concerned citizens leading the recall of the mayor and city council of Dalton Gardens. We hold no animosity toward the Streeter family or any of our elected officials. We simply have a different vision for our city; one that keeps Dalton rural and preserves the characteristics that make it so unique and desirable; one where city officials follow the rule of law, impartially enforce city ordinances, adhere to open meeting laws, engage in meaningful discourse and embrace transparency.
The mayor dismisses our cause by characterizing the actions of 420 plus citizens who signed recall petitions as emotional responses by a few disgruntled, misguided neighbors. This is a misleading political maneuver designed to distract the public from the real substance of our dispute. We’ve done our homework and our positions are fully supported by the law.
Dalton has prohibited dwellings on any lot lacking frontage on a public street since 1971, years before the Streeters attempted to subdivide their 5-acre parcel in 1975. The city believes they deserve special treatment simply because they’ve lived in Dalton a long time and have been paying property taxes on their pasture lots. This argument is flawed. Every parcel is assessed for taxes, whether or not a house can be built on it. Buildable lots are much more valuable. In 2018, the Streeters paid taxes on their pasture lots at assessed values of $21,420, in contrast to $160,000 for their vacant lot with street frontage.
We believe the city had no legal authority to allow this development. In fact, the mayor and city council publicly agreed with this conclusion. They are on the record in council minutes and court filings asserting the subdivision was illegal because a plat map was not recorded, city ordinances already prohibited this development, the Streeters failed to timely record their deeds, disqualifying them for grandfathering under the 1975 zoning ordinance, and non-conforming use certificates cannot be granted (i.e. grandfathering) when a lot has never been in compliance with the law.
The Streeters claim they’re excused from violating the 1975 ordinance because it was improperly enacted. Even if that were the case, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that a 4-year claims period applies to procedurally defective ordinances. That means the time to contest the validity of this ordinance expired in 1980. In fact, the city claims the Streeters’ threat to sue them on the basis of this same claim is what led to their initial approval of the development. At the outset of this ordeal, had the city done their legal research, or sought input and discussion at a public meeting and not behind closed doors, they would not have taken this path leading to multiple lawsuits, public outrage, unnecessary legal expense and a recall election. They would have denied the Streeters’ request, and this controlling case would have fully supported that response.
We believe this action has an impact on every resident. In the future, the city cannot rightfully deny any similar development requests. The Streeter lots have never been entitled to grandfathering. They have no greater legal status than any other lot lacking street frontage, including vacant land yet to be subdivided. This action has the potential of opening up the development of hundreds of acres of undeveloped land in Dalton Gardens.
There are other important reasons for this recall. Just this last week, the city unveiled plans to improve Fourth Street by adding sidewalks, curbs, and center turning lanes. The vast majority of volunteer citizens on the Traffic Committee oppose these improvements, and despite earlier assurances, they were denied the opportunity to provide feedback. If the Streeter development and the Fourth Street transformation are allowed to proceed, Dalton will change forever. We’ll become an urban zone, with sidewalks and curbs and higher density development, all leading to the probable loss of our sewer system exemption. To those not living in Dalton Gardens, this may seem backward or non-progressive. But for most of us living in this city, open spaces, country roads, no street lights, and limited traffic is exactly why we live here. A dramatic transformation of our “rural” community should not rest in the hands of five individuals who have a very different vision for the future of Dalton Gardens.
To obtain a more exhaustive review and legal support for these positions, visit our website at savedalton.com, and vote FOR the recall on March 12.
Jeff Crandall is an attorney and a Dalton Gardens resident.