[Vision2020] Put the public back in NSA College public hearing

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Wed Jul 12 01:02:07 PDT 2017

Courtesy of today's (July 12, 2017) Moscow-Pullman Daily News with thanks to Tina Hilding.

Her View: Put the public back in NSA College public hearing

By Tina Hilding

There has been much news lately about the importance of public process. Moscow prides itself on encouraging civil engagement and participation.

So, why would the city have a public hearing with no public input?

Yes, you read that correctly. A public hearing in front of the city's Board of Adjustment is set for Tuesday - with no public input allowed.

I am not an expert rabble rouser. As a regular citizen, I wanted to express my concern about a proposed conditional use permit for the former CJs property. There is a lot of concern in this community for the proposal and its impact on downtown as was noted by large attendance at the appeal hearing before the City Council.

There were an unprecedented five separate appeals to the CUP - it reminded me of those football plays when all the whistles blow and referees are throwing penalty flags.

My biggest concern, as outlined in my appeal, was that the cumulative impacts of a new educational institution in the downtown business district had not been adequately considered by the Board of Adjustment. The city's comprehensive plan calls for commercial uses downtown. Educational uses were never permitted in the central business district until New Saint Andrews College received a CUP five years after it bought its downtown property, and it was limited to 200 students. Now, they want to increase to 500.

I have concerns about the project's impacts and about keeping a thriving and healthy downtown that is critical for our community's economy.

I had 10 days to prepare an appeal. I was not allowed to introduce new information but had to argue that the board did not have enough information to make their decision. This is tricky, and I worked many hours on my appeal.

I, like four others, paid $220 to appeal. Perhaps other people couldn't afford such steep appellant fees.

All of the appellants respectfully followed council rules throughout the intimidating process. I prepared for speaking and to answer possible questions, as I had been told to.

But, the council didn't ask me or any of the appellants any questions.

The council was supposed to consider each appeal separately. They discussed the first appeal extensively and remanded it to the Board of Adjustment.

They then spent a total of six minutes discussing the next four appeals. There was virtually no discussion on any of them - although they were significantly different from each other and although each of the appellants had put considerable effort into them. As an appellant who shelled out $220, I felt a little short-changed.

At the meeting's end, the community development director announced that the council's remand instructions would be finalized and a public hearing would be set.

I understood that testimony at the public hearing would focus on issues that the council had remanded and felt had not been adequately considered by the board - parking, the cumulative impacts of the project and whether it met the standards of the city's comprehensive plan.

Then, on June 19, I learned that no public input would be allowed.

What? I have never found a description of a public hearing that doesn't include the public. The city's own website says that public hearings include public testimony.

Many people care deeply about this project's impacts on our downtown community and businesses.

I am astonished at the treatment of concerned citizens throughout this process, and I cannot understand why the council would discourage engagement on a civic question important to so many.

Our City Council, mayor, and city staff are here to serve the public. It is incumbent upon them to correct this error and open the hearing to the public - as is required.


Moscow City Council session "Appeal of Conditional Use Permit LUP 2017-0007 for a Proposed Educational Institution at 112 North Main Street"



Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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