County

Decision Due To Dissolve Developer Deadlines

By TONY JONES

Critics of the county’s policies dealing with planned communities, and the manner in which the Commish’s handle all things public, will feel vindicated learning the county is quietly preparing another gift for the development community.

Under current county code, when a planned community is approved, the developer has two years to get their project underway. It they run into trouble implementing their plans, it is common to give them a one-year time extension, for a total of three years.

If, at the end of the three years the developer still can’t get their act in gear, the application expires and the zoning reverts to its pre-application status. As a last resort, if the developer still feels the project is viable, they have the option of starting over and filing a new application.

Three years may seem like a long time for a project that, at the time the county hears the application, supposedly already has sufficient financing, and has all the necessary agreements in place for things like sewer, water, and fire protection, and swears that the demand exists for the new homes. And, for good or ill, Avimor proved that current rules provide sufficient time to install the necessary infrastructure. However, between the downturn in the economy and poor vetting by the county, some projects currently approved by the county are starting to run out of time.

Faced with the prospect of doing the right thing and letting the troubled projects expire, or bowing ever more deeply to the wishes of the developers, Commish’s chose the latter. The county has quietly begun the process of changing the code to give developers up to FIVE years to get their projects off the ground. First in line to benefit from the proposed rule change will be the proposed subdivision on Hammer Flat.

Examine the proposed new code can be found at title-8-amendments.
The public hearing to anoint the new rule is scheduled for May 14.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Tom Anderson
    Apr 8, 2009, 3:24 pm

    Seems like since government at all levels in Idaho is purely Fascist, that we would save money by just letting business interests meet in public buildings and create policy without a bunch of useless government employees getting in the way.

    We should just admit that business is in control and remove the middleman(woman) for a tidy savings.

  2. A guest opinion should have the author’s name as well as their relationship(job,etc…) to the point of the article. “Reader’s Opinion” at the Idaho Statesman carries these statements. It is useful to the reader when forming an opinion about the article or the author’s stance on a article. Mr. Jones was the key player in the fight against Skyline Development’s successful application for Hammer Flat.

    As to the point of the article, the commissioners are protecting themselves for these past decision. Going forward I see them being more conservative. This can be seen with the tabling of the Dry Creek application in January.

    EDITOR NOTE–Point well taken. Do we also need to disclose payments made by developers to the “deciders?”

  3. EDITOR NOTE–Point well taken. Do we also need to disclose payments made by developers to the “deciders?”
    Sure if Suncor or Skyline had submitted a piece for publishing.

  4. The time extension proposal is being made by the County’s Development Services staff, in response to the economic downturn, and has yet to be heard. At this time, no decision about adoption has been made, at any level.

    I would encourage everyone who is interested in the issue to attend the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on May 14. The Board of Ada County Commissioners would then hold a hearing a couple of months after a P & Z decision is made, and we would make a final decision on the proposed changes, one way or the other. Alternately, the proposal could be amended and adopted in amended form.

    Public input on issues such as this one is always desirable. E-mail your comments or questions to: bdanielson@adaweb.net or call him at 287-7913. If you want to reach me directly, my e-mail address is sharonu@cableone.net and my telephone numbers are 287-7001 or 362-0843.

  5. Clippityclop
    Apr 8, 2009, 6:01 pm

    Good point, Guardian.
    While the Commissioners ‘decide’ on the merits of a PC application, they rely heavily on Ada County Development Services staff. That staff is funded by development application fees, a la Commisioner Tilman’s campaign brochure. Se habla ‘conflict of interest?’ Quite the tangled web. Time for OBJECTIVE, blinded evaluation by qualified consultants, on the developer’s dime. Or frankly, I’d rather pay Staff salary than deal with a loaded deck.

  6. My sincere respects to Ms. Ullman. However, there seems to be a problem with the statement, “The time extension proposal is being made by the County’s Development Services staff, in response to the economic downturn, and has yet to be heard”

    I made a couple calls to DS. The story they tell is that the direction to prepare the amendment, and language it includes, came from the front end of the horse, not the back, if you know what I mean.

    Someone is getting off message.

  7. GREAT! Now we will have an avenue that allows moving the concept of the 20 year hole in the ground downtown into the suburbs!!! Just how many times do we have to go through this before we learn that the developer’s plan is simple. Tell them you will build the bridge across the river and then after you are deep enough into the process, announce that you decided to not build it after all. Get the P&Z to approve your grandiose development and then put in some streets and curbs before you announce that the project is no longer viable without help from the government. Sell the idea of a self sustaning community with all the services built in, talk the county into putting fire and EMS on site, but don’t worry so much about businesses, the county will be forced to do that. And don’t forget to put a non-sustainable “charter school” in and then tell the school district you can’t make it pay to keep open, forcing the school district to absorb it.
    Although, I guess when you have a mayor who wants to spend over 50 MILLION dollars on a trolley to nowhere, nothing else should surprise us.

  8. Developers will go where they think they can make a buck. The challenge for cities and counties is to manage the growth and to get growth to pay for itself.

    This last cycle all of the costs of new growth for infastructure was put on the backs of the locals. Either in the foms of Urban Renewal property taxes or levy increases.

    If they extend the limits for developers to get their projects up and running it would be nice to have a clause where they agree to meet all new ordinances as they would apply to thier projects for infastructure, landscaping, design, police, fire, schools and my personal favorite TRANSPORTATION issues. This can be cone via exactments or impact fees.

    You gotta give to get. Bringing a project forward is a costly process for developers and if they get an extension then some skin in the game is ok by me via some concessions back to the community.

  9. The flip side of my above comment is let their development agreements expire and let the ground revert. This will force urban infill and put temporary halt to all the sprawl created in this valley.

  10. Like Rove Lives, it’s my understanding that this propoal to help the developers did not spring like Athena from the brows of the staffers of Development Services. Not one of them woke up one morning with a burning desire to change the regs to help the developers, but were “steered” shall we say, in that direction. So, has Ms. Ullman been deceived? Or is she giving a line to assuage the public? In any case, WHY would any Commissioner want to give up control over County land for FIVE years?? I think three years is too long! A lot can happen in five years, and the public interest says to keep control over land use.

  11. Clippityclop
    Apr 9, 2009, 12:10 pm

    I wonder if this extension request came from the Commissioner level or was instead commissioned by developers via Ada County Development Services staff. Anyone know? Hence my earlier comment re: the ridiculous conflict of interest which has been allowed to persist with that agency. Until this is addressed, expect more of the same. By the way, Ms. Ullman, this makes the public hearing provess a little lopsided, don’t you think? No wonder the public is frustrated with you all — this is hardly democracy in action. More like lip service. Care to be a voice for change? Clean up this mess, or at least admit it is far from impartial and fair to the County you represent. A five-year extension is ridiculous.

  12. Rove Lives and Samizdat ~ I checked again with Ada County Development Services and was told that this change originated with the development community and was brought to the Development Services staff. They, in turn, queried the Board about whether to pursue an amendment proposal. I believe that meeting predated my time on the Board. At that time, the Board apparently directed the DS staff to research the issue and provide a proposal. Again, no hearings have been held and no decisions have been made. There is still plenty of time for public input in the process.

  13. Once again, my sincere respects to Ms. Ullman. I may owe her an apology. The communication muddle was at the rear of the horse, not her end.

    Her staffer, perhaps embarrassed to admit to a lay citizen that he was mowing the developer’s lawns, indicated that he was getting “direction” on this matter from the Board of Commissioners. That statement, while true, was less than complete. What he neglected to tell me was that the impetus for changing the code had come from the development community, and that it was he who had suggested the change to the Board, not the reverse.

    Mystery solved: Problem remains. As Clippityclop observes, as long as development services staff is funded by development application fees, the conflict of interest will remain and the public will continue to get shafted in proceedings such as these.

  14. Steve Edgar
    Apr 9, 2009, 7:47 pm

    Interesting…Seems I called for a moratorium a couple of years ago; as a sitting Ada County P&Z Commissioner…It was a lead balloon and no one felt the urgency to review my “radical” position. (I think it is archived with Dave somehwere) Ahhh, hindsight. Please understand that I am NOT saying “I told you so” I genuinely want what is best for all Idaho citizens no matter where they live. In these times we MUST protect each other. On another note and related to this issue, now that Avimor is walking away, I wonder who will pick up the pieces?

    For that matter who will transport their sewage, provide their water, maintain their roads, maintain their common area’s, monitor and maintain their wildlife conservation program and trail system? My guess is that it will fall on Ada County to provide all these public services and more. The developer provided items will fall into disrepair and the nature conservation program will cease (if I remember correctly this was a condition of approval). Ultimately Avimor will fail and the folks who own up there will be left with ten open homes, ten occupied homes and an empty bag. If I were living there I would research my options.

    Meanwhile I do believe and predict that Ada County will be the “owners” of the Avimor infrastructure and as County residents we will pay the bill….Planned Communities within Ada County have been an unqualified failure. There has been no “trip capture” and no successful commercial district (main selling points) in any PC in Ada County–ever! I do believe in the PC concept, just not in rural Idaho. I also very sincerely hope that the investments of the Avimor residents are not left by the wayside as this development dies off. I would be very interested to see where Ada County’s responsibility lies on this topic. Commissioner’s Your thoughts?

  15. Clippityclop
    Apr 9, 2009, 10:08 pm

    O’Edgar ’08!

    Former P&Z Commissioner Edgar,

    I wish to hell you had run for Commissioner Yzaguirre’s spot this past year. The voters of Ada County adore you. (And your integrity, not to mention enormous stones.)

    You bet Ada County will end up picking up the tab for the Avimor mess. Thanks for looking out for us, Ada County Commissioners.

  16. I hope the planned community concept will be run out of the country. After 40 years in the real estate community I have seen so many scams that nothing should surprise me, but Hidden Springs and Avimor are just stunning examples of failure, along with the downtowm hole in the ground. What happened to real estate law? No recourse for the county or the seller or whatever entities have an interest in the property? There are some really stunning problems with the agreements that should control development. I guess it is the ignorance of the governmental agencies that stun me the most. Guess someone is making money off of all this crap.

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