Landowners Beware Growing Land Use Control in North Idaho
by John Poland
Ten years ago it was relatively easy to buy a piece of land in north Idaho and build a house. Regulations were light and bureaucracy was minimal. Those who have tried to build anything recently know that all this has changed. Our area is rapidly becoming an over-regulated copy of California.
This trend started in Kootenai County when the area began to grow rapidly. County officials turned over planning and zoning responsibilities to a private consulting company – Ruen-Yeager & Associates.
Development procedures that used to be simple turned into nightmares of regulation and bureaucracy. I have talked with numerous contractors, realtors and surveyors who describe how it is nearly impossible to get anything done in Kootenai county now.
Ruen-Yeager next expanded their reach into Bonner county. I have heard more tales of the difficulties in getting anything done there now, compared to just a few years ago. Landowners who simply wish to divide a parcel find it takes much longer, and projects are needlessly delayed while the forms, approvals, reviews and hearings are worked through. For those desperately trying to move to this area the problems must be like a bad flashback to the California they are trying to escape.
Now, this expanding “partnership” between government and a private business has worked its way into Boundary county. I am now hearing the same stories of delays, fees, paperwork and bureaucracy involved with everything that happens here.
So, why would a County do this?
Until a few years ago, in Boundary County a single Planning and Zoning Administrator took care of these applications and worked through any development issues. This made the county directly responsible for decisions and there was little financial incentive in delaying projects.
Consider the situation now. The county hires Ruen-Yeager to handle all county planning and zoning activity. Instead of having one full time county employee handle it, they now have a private firm with several employees tasked with this job, with all of the mark-up and overhead associated with such a deal. Every bit of red tape, bureaucracy and obstruction they can throw in front of a property owner works to their benefit. Every hour they spend “helping” the County or “working with” the landowner is time they can bill back to the county, and ultimately, we the taxpayers.
The county gets to offload the work to a private firm who makes a lot of money from slowing down projects all over the county. The Commissioners have their own private attorney to look after “civil law” who then makes sure nothing done can legally touch the county officials. Any deals that would be to their benefit can be approved, while any they personally dislike can be blocked. Does anyone see any opportunities for cronyism here? Any chance for a little corruption on the side to favor one entity over another? It did not need to be this way, but this is the path your commissioners have chosen.
I myself have personally experienced this new bureaucracy. A simple parcel division that should have taken a few weeks to complete has been dragged out for over six months and still is not finished. I have had numerous discussions with County officials and Ruen-Yeager arguing over their arbitrary decisions but of course to no avail as they hold all the power. At a recent county meeting the officials actually told me “we don’t take responsibility for previous decisions.” This, from officials who were in office when the previous decisions were made that led up to my situation. These problems led to my own research and discussions with many others in the county who are having the same kinds of unnecessary delays and expenses. It is widespread and affects everyone trying to build or develop.
Is this really what we want in Idaho? This is supposed to be the most conservative area of the most conservative state in the country, and yet we are letting our property rights disappear into the bureaucracy of the “public – private partnerships” that characterizes the rapid spread of regulation and restriction all over the country. It does not need to be this way. It was not this way a few years ago.
If you like the trend we are on, by all means keep voting for the incumbents, especially the group now running Boundary County. My neighbors and I have personal experience with their cronyism over the last four years and the decisions that they have made that have destroyed our neighborhood. We won’t be voting for the incumbents this election. There are conservative, constitutionally minded challengers on the ballot this year and we will be supporting all of them.
Remember, elections in Idaho are decided during the primaries. Democrats don’t win in Idaho, but RINOs and corrupt local officials do. If you want to clean up Idaho, you must vote in the primaries – for the sake of the future of Idaho and your own local area.