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Salmon City Council in-depth discussions on Development Code issues of Impact Area representation on the P& Z Commission, a Public Purpose designation for government owned lands and grandfathering of existing Carports succeeded in revealing how much more has to be learned before any decisions can be made.

The November 6 hour and 20 minute long council Development Code discussion period began with the question of whether or not residents from impact areas surrounding the city should be included on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. City Attorney Fred Snook reported that research into prior city and county ordinances pertaining to that question has resulted in the fact no one knows for certain exactly what ordinances are presently in place. It has been confirmed that joint ordinances were adopted in December of 1994 and that a joint city/county P&Z Committee does exist. Snook indicated that ‘square one’ has to be found before any action on the issue of P&Z membership can be recommended.

Staff members of the county and the city are searching for all past records related to areas on each side of where where city and county boundaries meet.

A joint County Commissioners/Salmon City Council meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 12. County Building Department Administrator Gary Goodman will be in attendance and the impact zone will be one of the matters discussed.

A motion was passed by the City Council to postpone discussion on the impact zone issue until after the meeting with the county.

The council also decided to postpone further discussion of the Public Purpose zoning designation for lands owned by government entities. Again, the reason was a need for more information.

That portion of the proposed Development Code produced much opposition from the public during a public hearing hosted by the city. The biggest objection at that time was a clause that said no public hearing would be required if owners of the public land wanted to change the use of the land. The council has since added language to the document that makes a public hearing on any proposed changes mandatory.

At the city’s November 6 council meeting all sides of the Public Purpose issue were discussed. Lands now occupied by government entities presently fall into the same zoning category as neighboring properties. City Park and the Golf Course are zoned Highway Commercial as are the Salmon High School, and Kid’s Creek Pond. The Sacajawea Center is zoned Agricultural, Island Park is zoned Commercial, the Courthouse and its Annex are both zoned Low Density Residential and Pioneer School is zoned Medium Density Residential. Councilman Fred Waidely said the present zoning is a hodgepodge and that putting all government owned properties under the same zoning classification would be a good thing to do. Councilman Jim Kluesner made a motion to just eliminate all mention of Public Purpose Zoning from the proposed Development Code. That motion failed on a vote of five to one.

A manual produced by the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP) recommends not creating Public Purpose Zones but rather leaving the zoning the same as surrounding properties and granting exceptions to compliance when necessary.

Councilman Jim Baker found advantages to having government owned properties under one zone but felt more discussion was needed on designation options. Councilman Jim Kluesner said the term Public Purpose has United Nations origins. Councilman Jesse Bender said the heart of the matter is good. It is the definition that’s upsetting to some. She said a fine tooth comb should be used to find comfortable designations. Councilman Jim Bockelman pointed out that under present Highway Commercial zoning if the High School decided to sell some of its school grounds, the buyer could install a gas station or truck stop. He said under Public Purpose that could not happen without a hearing and special exemption.

Attorney Snook suggested a rewrite of what has been written in the proposed Development Code and some research into how other Idaho cities zone their government owned land. City Clerk Mary Benton will contact ICRMP to find out why they recommend against the Public Purpose designation. A motion was unanimously passed to postpone the discussion until more information is acquired.

When it came to the topic of portable carports that have been constructed without permits the subject was postponed due to an overload of information.

The council began with the public’s request to grandfather all existing carports and moved quickly into the legalities of the units being placed too near property lines, being improperly anchored or being located too close to streets.

The issue was boiled down to; most have been installed contrary to city codes and many pose safety issues. The added element is that existing codes have not been enforced which means in effect the city shares the responsibility of allowing the carports to be erected.

Kluesner said he has photographed at least 60 portable carports in the city and he thinks they should be grandfathered since if anchoring problems exit they would have already been blown away. Bender was against a blanket grandfathering. She said, “You don’t change the law to fix the people who are breaking the law, you fix the problem.” In answer to Kluesner’s affirmation of private property rights she said there is also the issue of obeying existing laws.

A motion to grandfather all existing carports was made by Kluesner and defeated on a five to one vote. Reasons for not grandfathering all of them had mostly to do with safety. The discussion then went to the various ways safety issues could be addressed such as inspections of each structure, whether or not the structure has sides that impede roadway visibility as well as how well the structure is anchored. Then came the questions of how long would carport owners be given to correct any safety issues, who would be doing the inspections and who will be developing the safety standards. The one common agreement was that all new carports will only be built in total compliance with city code setbacks and safety standards.

The motion to postpone the discussion was passed unanimously. Before the next discussion each City Councilman will write a motion that includes how all contingencies should be addressed.

In the closing Public Comment period City Clerk Mary Benton referred to Bender’s comments related to existing laws and said she wholeheartedly agreed with her. Benton said there are ordinances in place and a Development Code is in effect. She said the position the council is in right now is due to those codes not being enforced. She said, “You guys are paying for the lack of enforcement. If you have a code, you need to follow that code and if it doesn’t suit the way you want the city to go then take it out. Amend the code so that it’s the way that we want it, the way we’re comfortable with it…so that we can enforce it…so that ten years or 20 years from now the people that are sitting here won’t be going through the same thing.” Benton said it is vital that everyone be treated the same and that if codes are enforced for some they are enforced for all.

Arlene Orr, a dealer for portable carports, said safety issues are certainly a matter to consider and at the same time she urged the council to just be considerate of residents since there are instances where the placements of existing carports are vital to those with physical impairments.

The next meeting of the Salmon City Council will be November 20 beginning at 6PM in the Salmon Valley Center meeting room.

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