[Vision2020] Ineptitude And/Or Corruption?

Art Deco deco at moscow.com
Mon Apr 24 10:04:40 PDT 2006

      Ineptitude And/Or Corruption?


      An ongoing Moscow rezoning and subsequent possible PUD process provides an interesting opportunity to see the Moscow Community Development Office at work and to see who is really wielding power in the city.


      This rezone is partially described on the Moscow City Website:


      Rezone Application for Approximately 8.2 Acres of Land Located West of North Polk Extension and East of Pintail Lane and Mallard Court


      The project involved is a two part P & Z process:  a rezone, and then if the rezone is granted, a PUD (Planned Unit Development) process.  The PUD part will have some interesting elements in itself that will most likely excite comment.  However, the present state of the rezone process is also commentworthy.


      The rezone is for three parcels for which it is planned that a developer will propose a PUD spanning all three now existing parcels.


      The developer has already had a meeting will some neighborhood property owners and those likely to be impacted by the PUD proposal.  The project borders the Quail Run subdivision.  A number of residents of the subdivision and some other neighbors have real concerns about the project.


      After the developer's neighborhood meeting, a resident with some very cogent concerns, hereinafter called X, visited the Moscow Community Development Office (CDO) with some queries.  Among other things during this visit X was told that due to the hearing schedule and load, the public hearing for this rezone application would not be heard until mid-May.


      Imagine X's surprise when X saw the public hearing notice in the Daily News for the proposed rezone.  The hearing was set for April 26, 2006.


      What surprised X was that although the property of X abutted the proposed rezone, X had not received the statutorily required mailed notice announcing the public hearing from the city/applicants.


      As many of you know Idaho Code requires written notice to certain property owners impacted by a rezone application:

      "provided that in the case of a zoning district boundary change, and notwithstanding jurisdictional boundaries, additional notice shall be provided by mail to property owners or purchasers of record within the land being considered, and within three hundred (300) feet of the external boundaries of the land being considered, and any additional area that may be impacted by the proposed change as determined by the commission."

      http://www3.state.id.us/cgi-bin/newidst?sctid=670650011.K  [IC 76-6511, Section b]


      X asked the Community Development Office among other things why a notice had not been sent to them.  To make a long story short, X was told that "the county must have made a mistake."


      The applicable part of the city zoning ordinance about who is responsible for sending out notices:


      b. The applicant shall, in a timely manner, provide the names and addresses, on mailing labels provided by the City, of all persons entitled to notice under the provisions of this Chapter. In the alternative the applicant may contract with the City for research and preparation of the list of landowners and residents who require notice. The City shall have the option of billing for this service based on its out-of-pocket costs plus administrative expenses or the City may charge a fixed charge per notice, with said charge established by the Council from time to time by resolution.  http://www.moscow.id.us/citycode/TITLE04/toc.asp  [See Chapter 10, Sec. 10-4. Procedures for Type 1 Quasi-Judicial Hearings.]


      First, regardless of which method was used to generate the list of those to be statutorily notified, it is hard to see where the county could be at fault in any way.  It is either the applicant's or the city's responsibility to do the required research (read simple clerical work).



      Second, and most important:


      Since the public hearing is set for the 26th and statutorily requires a 15 day notice mailed to the likely-to-be-impacted property owners, the latest a statutorily correct notice could be sent to the required property owners was on the 11th.


      After X visited the CDO and they admitted that proper notice had not been mailed to all the required property owners (several, including some abutting the proposed rezone), additional notices were sent out.


      These additional notices were postmarked on the 13th, 2 days after the statutory requirement of 15 days, and hence statutorily insufficient.  Hence, the public hearing, if held, will not be in accordance with the applicable statutes - it will be an apparently outlaw hearing which the CDO is masquerading as a legitimate public hearing.


      If X had not called this matter to the attention of the CDO, several people legally entitled to mailed notice would not have received such notice.  They would most likely been unaware of the public hearing -- a hearing on a matter that would impact their properties and the value and enjoyment thereof.


      Remember that many of these property owners were expecting a mid-May public hearing.  Not having received the legally required mailed notice, the unnoticed property owners would be denied participation in a zoning process in which they had a property interest at stake and a legal right to participate.



      How and why did this happen?


      1.    Is the CDO so inept that they are unable to perform the simple clerical task of generating the list of those statutorily required to be notified for a rezone process?  [After all, the developer previously generated and used a list of those likely needed to be notified and such a list was presumably available to the CDO.]


      2.    Having had their errors pointed out to them, is the attitude of the CDO such that they think they are above the law and can flout the very exact, clear law with impunity, and thus hold the public hearing without statutorily correct notice?


      3.    And/or is their another factor at work here which accounts for their negligence?  One of the three parcels in the rezone request and part of the coming PUD application belongs to Cultmaster Douglas Wilson of the Wilson & Family's Cult & Cash Machine.  


      4.    Is Wilson again getting special treatment from the CDO?  Special treatment to the extent that CDO did not, until their hand was forced by X, notify all those property owners legally required to be notified, some of which have real concerns about the project they wish to express at a public hearing?


      5.    Worse yet, having failed to provide statutorily timely correct notice, is the CDO now knowingly forging ahead to hold the statutorily insufficiently noticed public hearing as an accommodation to Wilson?



      Ineptitude and/or corruption?  Let's see:


      The proper action to take by the CDO in my opinion in the light of their failure to meet the statutory notice requirements would be to cancel the public hearing, reschedule it for a date allowing time to provide statutorily correct notice, and then actually and correctly provide that notice.


      What action will the City of Moscow take?  Will more law abiding, law respecting, conscientious city public officials and/or city staff request/demand that the hearing be rescheduled and properly noticed (and thus avoiding even the appearance of impropriety) or will they allow the dysfunctional CDO to continue as planned in this matter in contravention of law and thus continuing to grant special treatment to Wilson as they have done for so long?



      The action taken by the city at this point will provide at least a partial answer to the question "Ineptitude and/or corruption?"



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