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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Attorney general threatens Idaho County officials

By Kathy Hedberg Lewiston Tribune

GRANGEVILLE – The Idaho County commissioners face a threat of criminal prosecution by the state attorney general if the board does not begin work on a comprehensive land-use plan and zoning ordinance within a month.

County Clerk Kathy Ackerman issued a news release Friday afternoon saying the commissioners expect to add an agenda item to a future meeting to publicly discuss the letter from the attorney general. Commission Chairman Skip Brandt could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

The attorney general’s letter “threatens individual criminal prosecution of each current Idaho County commissioner if the board does not commence work within 60 days of April 24, 2019, to adopt a comprehensive plan and at least one zoning ordinance required by title 67, chapter 65 of the Idaho Code.

“If the commissioners are charged,” the letter says, “they will be personally liable for their own legal defense,” according to the news release.

The commissioners have historically favored private landowner rights over governmental zoning and land-use planning. In 1979, a countywide referendum vote was taken to approve or repeal the county’s building and permit ordinance. The votes were 2 to 1 in favor of repeal, and in 1980, the commissioners established a county planning commission.

The planning commission developed a draft comprehensive land-use plan, but after deep philosophical divides among members of the commission, as well as highly charged public meetings, the commission was disbanded. No comprehensive or zoning plans were adopted, and Idaho County remains one of the few municipalities in the state out of compliance with state law.

The current county commissioners supported legislation proposed this year that would have made the comprehensive-plan mandate discretionary. The proposed legislation, however, failed after multiple amendments.

“While the Idaho County board of commissioners takes the office of the attorney general’s threats seriously, the board intends to give the highest priority to upholding private property rights of Idaho County citizens while complying with the statute,” the release states.

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