By STEVE EDGAR
Sitting as an Ada county P&Z Commissioner for over a year now, I have come to the conclusion that we need a moratorium on growth in the Treasure Valley. My reasoning is to allow time for catch up and create some breathing (no pun intended) room. I have arrived at this conclusion based upon my perception of the following constraints.
AIR QUALITY On any given morning across the Valley, from the “Cliffs”/Hammer Flats to the bluffs above Can-Ada road, one can see the “air”. It is a brown haze which settles into our environment and unless the wind is blowing, remains there all day long. When I first moved here, eleven years ago, this was not the case. A long time ago, while serving my country in the armed forces, I lived in the high desert above the LA basin and, on occasion, I would travel to Anaheim to watch a baseball game, as I crested the pass prior to descending into the LA basin, I witnessed the same pollution phenomena. As recently reported in the Statesman, this degradation in air quality threatens our health and our access to federal funds to improve our infrastructure, something else we so desperately need.
ROADS I travel all over North America on a weekly basis and have the pleasure of being transported from metropolitan airports into the cities which they serve. I pay attention to traffic, mass transit and other forms of “moving” people on a large scale. I must say that my most frustrating experiences are not in downtown NYC, Chicago, LA, DC or San Francisco but right here in the Treasure Valley. My drive home from the Boise Airport westbound on I-84 to the Eagle exit north on highway 55 to State street then west to highway 16 is a nightmare between the hours of 4-7 PM or conversely from 5:30- 8:30 AM. It is only a bad dream at other times. Bumper to bumper on inadequate roads, coupled with a lack of public transportation only serves to add to “seeing” our air. All the while taking away from our quality of life.
Water On any given day one can pick up the Idaho Statesman and read about a water issue; lack of it – fight for it – control of it – quality of it. In most cases these discussions center on adequate supply and quality for current residents across the valley floor. In many, if not all, of the applications for development that I review, this issue is only given a minor review and glossed over as if we have unlimited supply and access to this critical resource.
QUALITY OF LIFE I moved here, as many new Idahoans have, for the quality life the Treasure Valley has to offer. I love the outdoors, hunting, fishing, camping and many summer and winter sports. In short, I love the environment that affords my family the opportunity to enjoy life outside of the drudgery of work. I do not wish to deny that opportunity to anyone; from the longest Idaho resident to the newest arrival. This is why we are ALL here. So what can we do to preserve this way of life before it is gone? My proposal is controversial but it does allow us to catch up and step back and look at the big picture.
MORATORIUM I propose a Valley wide moratorium on all projects for development under the “safety and health” umbrella which is supported by science and fact. We, the entire valley; cities, counties and the state must form a cooperative alliance to ensure the protection of the very quality of life which attracts us all. This is not a case of “NIMBY” (not in my back yard) nor a case of “I have mine now you can’t have yours”; it is a case of control and preservation. Both of which will allow growth and ensure proper levels of growth can be supported by our Treasure Valley environmental, infrastructural and cultural resources. The moratorium must be agreed to by all levels of government and is already being flirted with by many of the smaller cities who are beginning to “just say no”. This is not in an effort to stop growth, it is in an effort to control growth and create a breather to address the very important critical infrastructure needs and how to pay for them without continuing to ramp up individual property taxes of existing residents.
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY Current economic conditions have placed all of our agencies in a unique position. With an oversupply of homes, condos and apartments and with mortgage rates rising in a slowing market we have been provided a window of opportunity that must be exploited. These opportunities are few and far between, to not use them to our advantage is irresponsible. I suggest the moratorium be implemented for 120 to 180 days, beginning sometime this year so we can get up to date studies and analyses from ACHD; IDWR; DEQ; EPA; IDFG; Idaho Power; Law Enforcement agencies; Fire Protection Districts; Ada County Paramedics; School Districts and other critical resource agencies so that your fellow citizens appointed to these planning, zoning and development commissions and agencies have up to date and current studies to make informed and accurate decisions from. I am tired of approving projects because they meet “the rule of law” and “findings of fact”.
Let alone the ACHD traffic study on the project is 5 years old and the current population figures are off by ten fold or the water rights have yet to be resolved and the air quality is causing the elderly and children to remain indoors. I want to make accurate, informed and coordinated decisions based upon what is right for our valley and environment.
I want to complete my appointed task with the trust and with the due diligence my fellow citizens expect of me and my fellow commissioners. Health and Safety are my reasons for wanting this moratorium and I believe they are defensible reasons.
UPDATE 5p.m. MONDAY: ADA COUNTY COMMISH PAUL WOODS COMMENTS–
“While I agree with Mr. Edgar that protecting air and water quality, reducing congestion, and protecting Ada County’s quality of life are critically important issues facing County and City governments, I don’t believe a largely “symbolic” 180-day moratorium is going to resolve any of those issues. The county-wide Blue Print for Good Growth, the Treasure Valley Air Quality Council, and the coalition for public transportation all recognize these are complex issues. We must now all agree to act with urgency in getting our policies into action.
The leaders of the Treasure Valley already have ample data on these issues. We do not need any more studies to tell us what we already know. Developers must mitigate the potential impact their new projects might have on our communities. If they don’t, their applications shouldn’t be approved. As a County Commissioner, I take this approach with every development application that I review.
So while I may share Mr. Edgar’s frustration with the lack of progress on these problems, I believe the real thing we must all do is focus on implementing immediate and permanent change and resist the temptation of overreaction and perpetual study.”
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