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Local residents had a chance to express opinions about the proposed draft City Development Code at a September 17 public hearing hosted by the Salmon City Council.

A sign-in sheet for the hearing, which was held in the Salmon Valley Center meeting room, contained the names of 55 people. The number of signatures collected on five individual development code related petitions against portions of the proposed code totaled 151. Those petitions along with written testimony were all entered into the official hearing record.

At no time did any of the 23 speakers endorse adoption of the Development Code as written. The main issue involved the continued allowance of duplexes or multi-family units in areas now zoned as Low Density Residential (LDR). Since an adamant opposition to that allowance has been maintained by Smedley Subdivision residents throughout the Planning and Zoning hearing process the property owners’ question why the allowance is still included in the document. Of equal importance to the speakers was language in the document they said gives the new code power to nullify and override pre-existing subdivision covenants. Lorraine Hand said she was told the new version of the code would not affect personal agreements or covenants but has since found an “Impact on Private Agreements” clause in the document which reads “Private agreements shall not supersede this code.”

A zoning designation of ‘Public Purpose’ assigned to any city, county, state or federally owned land also drew complaints because of a clause in the document that states no public hearings would be required for decisions on how such lands might be used. Without a legal right to comment, speakers cited the potential for government land-use decisions being made that could range anywhere from recreational parks to heavy industrial facilities. The petition addressing the Public Purpose Zone called for complete deletion of the public purpose concept and a continuation of the present zoning classification.

Another issue pointed out during the hearing had to do with a non-compliance of existing codes that govern the Planning and Zoning Commission membership. Gary Leuzinger and Greg Lowell both quoted a clause in the 1992 Development Code that states at least one commissioner, or up to three commissioners, shall reside within the city/county impact zone. The 1992 code is currently in effect and that requirement is not being met. In the proposed Development Code the word may has been substituted for shall which removes the location of residence requirement. According to the speakers that change will do nothing to improve impact zone communications. Lack of input opportunity from impact zone residents was an issue throughout the P&Z draft Development Code process.

The subject of appropriate process was raised by Scott Benton in terms of the public not having a chance to review or comment on changes made to the document’s draft version and no new zoning map being provided. As a former member of the P&Z commission Benton took issue with procedural missteps as well as the commission’s apparent choice to ignore an overwhelming majority opinion against allowing duplexes in LDR zoned areas.

The absence of any code references to prefabricated carports was noted by Benton as well as several other speakers. Roy Jackson said he has been told that existing carports will be grandfathered and he applauded what he called the city’s common sense. A suggestion was also made that the carports erected without permits could be allowed to obtain retroactive permits.

Proper process was cited as the biggest concern when Building Inspector Gary Goodman addressed the City Council. He said instead of going to the public first, it was decided that the city staff and a contractor would rewrite the 1992 Development Code and then take it to the people. The result is a 216 page document that was worked on for years before being released for public review which is when the many issues arose. Goodman said in his opinion there are many things in the code that are wrong and are not what Salmon is all about. He said he has found portions of the document that are in conflict with state law and he urged the council not to rush to a decision.

Regarding a Fair Housing Act rumor that the city would be in trouble if it doesn’t adopt the new codes Goodman doesn’t think that is true of either the current code or the one being proposed. . His advice to the City Council was to leave the old code in place while the draft Development Code is sent back to the P&Z for reworking and input from the public.

While the most vocal opposition has come from Smedley Subdivision and impact zone residents on the city’s west side the document involves everything within the city limits. Among the written testimony were letters from Janna and Steve Herbst who both protested a proposed change of zoning from commercial to residential on their Warpath property. They also opposed the suggestion to rezone a neighborhood west of their property as Medium Density Residential. They requested the property be left with the present commercial zoning for reasons of future development. In addition they wished that the area along Shoup Street be allowed to remain zoned for business rather than for apartment complexes.

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, September 18, the City Council decided to schedule a special workshop meeting on October 9 at 6PM to discuss all procedural options. It has been determined there is no legally required time frame for making an acceptance or denial decision on the proposed Salmon Development Code document.

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