Thursday, February 02, 2023

Emergency ordinance not needed

by Alecia Warren
| June 18, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - No emergency after all.

Following deliberations on Thursday, the Kootenai County commissioners decided against passing an emergency ordinance that would immediately allow for extensions on development projects delayed by recession-related issues.

Instead, the officials voted unanimously to pass the measure down to the Planning Commission to consider as a regular ordinance.

The difference is the latter must go through the typical hearing process - which could take months - but will be permanent if it is approved.

An emergency ordinance, though only temporary, bypasses the usual process so it can be put into effect immediately.

"I don't think we've proven that it meets all the conditions of the emergency ordinance clause," said Commissioner Todd Tondee, pointing out that builders and contractors have been struggling throughout the recession and an immediate action is unwarranted. "I'm not in favor of adopting an emergency ordinance, but moving through the regular ordinance process and giving the public a chance to talk."

The decision reflects testimony given at a recent hearing where many questioned why the measure was given emergency status.

Commissioner Rick Currie said there were still aspects of the ordinance he favored, like providing extensions to various land use projects and financial guarantees approved in 2009 and 2010, so long as applicants could give evidence of financial troubles.

"In these economic times, we need to help out where we can," Currie said.

But he would want to ensure the measure wasn't exploited, he said.

"The particular projects that would come before us would need to be substantially completed," he said. "Along with that, there needs to be an appeal process. Not only the project but also the public has the right of appeal so all sides can state their case."

Reactions varied on the demotion of the proposed measure to regular ordinance.

Terry Harris, executive director of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, praised the decision.

The organization felt the ordinance shouldn't qualify for the expedited emergency status, he said. There was also concern that the measure was too vague about who would be eligible for extensions.

"There were some critical problems with the text as it was written," Harris said. "Sending it to the Planning Commission was definitely the right thing to do."

Bill Johnson, past president of the North Idaho Building Contractors Association, said he wasn't sure what to make of the decision.

He likes the idea of the ordinance being permanent if it is approved, Johnson said, but it could be a long wait.

"There are a lot of developers who need that work and help now," he said.

Among them is Kurtis Kingsolver, who said he needs an extension soon on the financial guarantees for his 109-acre development Wild Ridge Estates in Rathdrum.

The biggest issue the recession has caused for the development he started in 2006, he said, is the near impossibility of obtaining bonds, as so many other developers have defaulted on projects.

"Right now, the worst-case scenario (if we don't get an extension) is the bank just goes into foreclosure and we'd lose the property," Kingsolver said.

Building and Planning Department staff said a Planning Commission hearing on the measure will be set in August.

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